Vic dangles $3000 carrot for health staff

·3-min read

Victorian public health workers will be given up to $3000 in bonus payments and free meals during overnight shifts to keep or lure them back into the state's strained health system.

Clinical staff including nurses, doctors and paramedics, and non-clinical employees such as cleaners and cooks, will get the extra cash as long as they are not contractors, are employed by July 1, and still there on September 30.

Those who join a Victorian public health service at any time during the three-month window are eligible for a pro-rata payment.

The first payment will be made on August 15 and the second at the end of September as part of the Victorian government's $353 million package, which also includes free meals for night-shift workers.

"This is all about encouraging people to take up shifts if they can, to go from being part-time to maybe working some further hours," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Thursday.

"It's also about bringing people back into the system ... and a fundamental acknowledgement of the extreme pressure, the really significant challenge that there is in our health system at the moment."

Royal Melbourne Hospital nurse unit manager Susan Harding said healthcare workers endured "dark days" in recent years and the cash was recognition of their hard work.

"We lost a lot of good nurses during that pandemic," she said.

"A lot of people were burnt out, a lot of people retired earlier because the risk to them was great, a lot of people just didn't want to be a nurse ever again for obvious reasons."

A similar one-off payment was announced for NSW health staff on Monday.

In both states the payments do not extend to private and primary care industry workers and are taxable.

Lisa Fitzpatrick, Victorian secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said Victoria's payment casts a wider net as it is open to pool staff.

"I hope that it will be an incentive and that nurses ... and midwives feel that they are being recognised for the extraordinarily relentless pressure that they have been under for two years and are going to continue to be under for months and months to come," she said.

Victoria and NSW have separately launched recruitment drives to hire 7000 and 10,000 extra health staff in coming years.

Mr Andrews flagged the states will agree to a "joint position" before the next meeting of national cabinet to ramp up visa approvals for skilled overseas migrants, while Ms Fitzpatrick is confident there are enough nurses in the state to fill the void.

Australian Medical Association Victoria president Dr Roderick McRae welcomed the package while admitting it may have come too late for some workers.

"Has the horse bolted? Perhaps some people have left," he said.

"However, some people with a full-time job might be able to do one shift a weekend for the pro-rata payment."

Dr McRae conceded there may be a "mild element" of Victoria poaching staff from interstate through the payment, or workers switching from the private to the public system.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy labelled the incentives a "good move".

"Now let's give health workers and all Victorians the health system they deserve," he tweeted.

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