Nurses at Healthe Care private hospitals in the Hunter have started returning to work after the federal government's commitment to support the industry during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Tuesday that Healthe Care had stood down some nurses or told them to take leave after the government banned most elective surgery last week.
The company, which runs Lingard, Maitland and Toronto private hospitals, sent an email to staff staying it was standing down "a considerable portion of our workforce ... with immediate effect" for four weeks.
Some Hunter nurses said it was "madness" for them to be at home when they should be at work retraining to help cope with a predicted surge in COVID-19 patients.
Lingard chief executive Warwick Crosby said none of his nurses had been stood down but some who had gone on leave were returning to work this week if they were deemed important in the fight against COVID-19.
"The last thing we wanted to do was have any of our workforce not working, so we're getting them back to start training," he said.
"It's a great deal from the government to support all our health care workers for the pandemic and post the COVID pandemic in terms of the backlog of elective surgery. It guarantees health care workers' security."
The NSW government is still negotiating with the sector over the details of a partnership agreement, but private hospitals in the Hunter already have been in talks with Hunter New England Health about their roles if the public system comes under pressure.
Private hospitals are likely to run as not-for-profit organisations during the pandemic. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the deal would bolster the public system with 30,000 beds and 57,000 nurses and midwives.
"Now we're on the taxpayers' dollar, and we need to make sure we're not wasting our resources," Mr Crosby said. "We won't be operating, but we'll be training and up-skilling, but we won't be wasting money."
Mr Crosby said it was unclear who would pay hospital executives during the crisis, one of many details being nutted out this week.
"We're really glad that we can secure the jobs of our workforce. This is a stressful and anxious time for all the doctors as well. This is all new for everyone."
HNEH has told medical staff to prepare for up to 3840 COVID-19 hospital admissions and 1000 ICU cases if social distancing does not limit the virus' spread.
HNEH has issued a call to registered and enrolled nurses and assistants in nursing to apply for casual work at John Hunter Hospital.
- Cardiff business fined $5000 for breaching coronavirus conditions
- Only a handful of Newcastle Airport flights after Jetstar axes all routes
- 'You are safer outside than inside': Disease expert criticises restrictions
- The coronavirus crisis in Newcastle and the Hunter
- NSW isolation rules to last 90 days
- Stay up-to-date with our daily COVID-19 Informer newsletter
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we want to ensure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists, you can subscribe here