The Union has long held the position that our Public Health Service, especially our Public Hospitals are best served by having in-house Public Pathology laboratories to deliver the testing need for the Hospital’s services.
One need only be reminded of the role some private pathology providers played in the collapse of PCR testing around Christmas 2021 when the number of samples they were running in each test caused the system to collapse when positivity rates rose. This didn’t happen with Melbourne Pathology, and this definitely didn’t happen in Public Pathology laboratories.
And we can all remember with the onset, and ongoing, COVID-19 pandemic, private pathology providers have made record profits offering PCR tests once they worked out how to maximise returns by processing multiple samples simultaneously.
Yet these windfall profits weren’t shared with their scientists and technicians; it is difficult but not surprising to hear them bang on that they cannot afford modest increases in pay and improvements in conditions.
The often-repeated claim that private pathology providers can improve turn-around times for tests have been largely exaggerated in our estimates, with no evidence proffered to back such claims. These claims always remind of us of the many examples where turn-around times have not improved and arguably have increased, especially for tests being couriered from rural and regional Victoria.
In fact, we have a more recent example of the Private Pathology Sector failing regional Victoria. Watch the clip
Then we have a clear pattern emerging of how private pathology negotiates new Enterprise Agreements, as private pathology has consolidated in Victoria.
Rather than seeking to keep up with the higher wages and conditions standards in the Public Health Sector, their offers on wages and conditions always seems to be about what they can get away with through new measures to contain costs, leading to a race to the bottom.
There is little attempt by private pathology providers to offer better pay and conditions. As we see it, they are more focussed on trying to cut them for the very workforce that continues to deliver them record profits, take over each other’s businesses and negotiate large salary packages for senior management.
The Union continues to be of the belief that there is little to no material benefit to patients or scientists or technicians to have private pathology providers operating public pathology laboratories given their work practices and attacks on the scientific workforces once they have secured Public Health Sector contracts.
This is why the Union has long advocated and lobbied for the return of public pathology laboratories in public hospitals – to give patients better care and scientists and technicians better jobs.
Returning Public Pathology laboratories to Public Hospitals means the scientific workforce will be employed under the Public Health Sector Agreement with better pay and conditions, which includes mechanisms to address matters like workloads.
It is our experience that when labs have returned to public hands, staffing levels have generally increased significantly.
It is the Union’s belief that Public Hospitals will always be better off with Public Pathology laboratories, and we will continue to work to ensure they are restored in our Public Hospitals.