Health war renewed as Vic poll heats up

The battle for political supremacy in the election-defining issue of health has seen another day of Victoria's leaders trading policies and barbs.

Labor kickstarted Wednesday's health free-for-all by promising cash to newly graduated nurses and midwives if re-elected on November 26.

"You'll receive a $5000 sign on bonus to say thank you for choosing public patients in public hospitals," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters at the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation office in Melbourne.

Under the $150 million pledge, a $2500 bonus would be paid to graduate nurses and midwives when they enter the state's public health system between 2022 and 2024.

Another $2500 payment would follow after they spend two years in the system, although it will be less for those working below a 0.8 full time equivalent.

Labor has also committed to hiring an extra 450 nurses and legislating stronger nurse- and midwife-to-patient ratios.

The union's state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said the plan would allow more workers to take up flexible hours and address major concerns, including the number of midwives working overnight.

Wednesday's sign-on promise follows an earlier Labor pledge to pay off the university degrees of more than 10,000 nurse and midwife students who enrol in 2023 and 2024 and work two years in the public system.

Not to be outshone, Liberal leader Matthew Guy was spruiking his own $66m health-minded promise to put nine additional surgery robots in eight public hospitals.

"It will assist with having elective surgery waiting lists in our first term, which is a very, very achievable goal of ours," he said across the road from Frankston Hospital.

Sixteen of the robots, used for soft-tissue surgeries, are already in operation in the state's private system and two in private hospitals.

Phil Dundee, a consultant urologist at the Frankston and Royal Melbourne hospitals, said almost all cancer surgery in his discipline is now performed robotically.

"For patients who have prostate cancer, open surgery typically means an inpatient stay of around about five days, quite a long recovery period and up to six weeks before they can return to normal activities," Dr Dundee said.

"After a robotic surgery, typically patients would go home day one. There are lower complication rates, lower transfusion rates."

Almost 85,000 Victorians are on the state's elective surgery waiting list, according to the latest data, nearly double the number before the pandemic.

The coalition has previously promised $325m to recruit 40,000 nurses and offer scholarships to cover the cost of 25,000 degrees.

Mr Guy would not say whether he would match Labor's sign-on bonus promise if he becomes premier, but ruled out changes to nurse-to-patient ratios.

Meanwhile, integrity questions continue to follow the premier after the Herald Sun reported the Independent Broadbased Anti-corruption Commission is mulling over a fresh probe into police handling of Labor's 2014 election "red shirt rorts" affair.

If launched, it would be the fifth corruption probe involving the Andrews government, but the premier said he wasn't aware of the substance of a purported whistleblower's compliant and deferred questions to the watchdog.

The commission declined to comment, citing its practice not to confirm whether it has a complaint or investigation before it.