Private hospitals and health agencies in the Northern Territory and South Australia respectively will be able to cooperate in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, following separate interim authorisations granted by the ACCC today.

Today’s interim authorisations granted to each of the Northern Territory and the State of South Australia follow similar authorisations granted to Victoria and Queensland earlier this month.

State and Territory governments are seeking to increase the capacity of their health systems during the pandemic by integrating the operations of public and private hospitals. This has also ensured private hospitals are funded and remain viable after most non-urgent elective surgery was suspended last month.

The ACCC’s interim authorisations granted today will allow public and private hospital operators in each jurisdiction to work with each other and relevant health agencies during the current health crisis by, for example, discussing expected capacity and demand for services, jointly procuring and distributing medical equipment and supplies, and sharing staff.

“It is clear that public and private health systems need to efficiently and transparently work together to better prepare for and respond to this pandemic, especially in regions where health facilities are more limited,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“State and territory health agencies and hospitals are working hard to plan and prepare for what may be a sudden and significant rise in patients with COVID-19. These authorisations will aid this process,” Mr Sims said.

Having granted interim authorisation for the arrangements, the ACCC will seek feedback on the applications for authorisation by South Australia and the Northern Territory. Details on how to make a submission will be available on the ACCC’s authorisations public register, where more information is also available, including the ACCC’s interim authorisation decision and a list of hospital operators covered by each of the authorisations.

Notes to editors

ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Section 91 of the Act allows the ACCC to grant interim authorisation when it considers it is appropriate. This allows the parties to engage in the proposed conduct while the ACCC is considering the merits of the substantive application.

The ACCC may review a decision on interim authorisation at any time, including in response to feedback raised following interim authorisation.

Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely public detriment.