The ACCC has separately authorised private hospitals in Victoria and in Queensland to cooperate with their state health agencies, public hospitals and each other, as they prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State governments are seeking to boost the capacity of their health systems during the current health crisis by integrating the operations of public and private hospitals.

These two ACCC authorisations will help facilitate this by allowing private and public hospitals in each state, and state governments, to work together; for example by discussing expected demand for services and available resources, sharing and jointly procuring equipment, medicines and other resources, allocating patients between hospitals, or sharing staff.

“There is a clear public interest in health authorities and hospitals responding to this pandemic in a cooperative, transparent and efficient way,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“These authorisations will help ensure that hospitals and health authorities in Victoria and Queensland can take necessary steps to provide coordinated and consistent care for what may be a significant rise in patients.”

The applications follow the Commonwealth Government’s recent direction for all hospitals to temporarily suspend the majority of elective surgery to free up resources to deal with expected surges in demand from COVID-19 patients.

It was also announced that funding would be provided for private hospitals to work with state and territory healthcare providers, under the direction of the various Departments of Health, to meet the expected growing demand during the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring the continued viability of private hospitals.

The ACCC expects to receive similar applications from other state governments.

Having granted interim authorisation for the arrangements, the ACCC will seek feedback on the Victorian and Queensland health agencies’ applications for authorisation.

Details on how to make a submission will be available on the ACCC’s authorisations public register, where more information is available including the ACCC’s statement of reasons and a list of hospital operators covered by the authorisations.

Notes to editors

ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action 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.

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

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