ATO data reveals private pathology short changing scientists

The Medical Scientists Association of Victoria (MSAV) is alarmed at reports today (18 December) of two of Australia’s largest private pathology providers minimising their tax obligations while insisting they are unable to increase the wages of their scientific workforces.

The data released by the Australian Taxation Office reveals that private pathology providers, Sonic Healthcare and Primary Health Care generated significant revenues and large profits. Both companies are falling further behind the industry in terms of wages and conditions making Sonic and Primary Health Care a less attractive employer with increasing workforce turnover and problems retaining highly trained and qualified staff.

Despite the scientific workforces being the reason for their companies’ success, both Sonic and Primary Health refuse to negotiate wage increases, in Primary’s case locking its entire scientific workforce into an 8.5 year wages freeze.

The data revealed by the Australian Taxation Office shows that two of Australia’s biggest private pathology providers generated huge revenues and profits but paid little in taxes.

It’s also particularly concerning to read some commentators pointing to such huge profits as a good reason to attack bulk-billing for pathology and imaging services. To suggest we have to end bulk-billing for pathology because of these results is senseless, short-sighted and would result in a significant decline in healthcare standards.

But the ATO’s data does reveal that Sonic and Primary Healthcare are in much better positions then they claim when they tell their scientists they can’t afford a pay increase.

We have a situation now where Primary Healthcare’s subsidiary Dorevitch Pathology hasn’t increased wages in over 8 years, while Sonic is trying to claim they’re too poor to pay wage increases. This is nothing short of a race to the bottom between Australia’s two biggest private pathology companies.

It is appalling that companies like Primary Health Care and Sonic can make huge profits from the ill health of Australians r earned in large part through the exploitation of their scientific workforces – the very people that deliver these companies such huge profits.

And when you have reports that both of these companies are pursuing strategies to expand their operations overseas, it begs the question of how much of these operations are being subsidised by the tax avoidance of these companies.

The continuing poor pay and conditions will result in growing problems in attracting and retaining the best and brightest. This will ultimately hurt Australia’s healthcare system as pathology services are run into the ground.

Poor pay and conditions at Sonic and Primary Health Care has generated a brain-drain of experienced scientists from medical sciences and the recent announcement by the Turnbull Government to end bulk-billing for pathology tests will further exasperate this damaging exodus.

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