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Hospital's 'fake patients' claim under investigation

A regional Victorian hospital is under investigation after allegations staff and their family members posed as patients during a visit by the state's health minister.

It is alleged 10 staff or relatives presented to Colac Area Health's urgent care department within half an hour on August 9, when Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas toured the hospital in the state's southwest.

All 10 of the allegedly fake urgent care arrivals were recorded in the hospital database, before being cancelled without being discharged after the minister left, the Colac Herald reported this week.

Ms Thomas says her department has appointed an external investigator.

She promised communications between her office and the hospital would be made available to the investigator and confirmed no request was made to the hospital to ensure the clinic was busy for her visit.

"The question that is front of my mind is if this alleged stunt did occur, what impact has it potentially had on people seeking health care that day at that health service?" she told reporters on Friday.

"I have never seen or heard of anything like this before."

When asked if people could be sacked over the incident, the health minister said she took a dim view of "deceitful behaviour".

"This is a great alleged breach of trust and if they are found to be true, there should be and will be serious consequences."

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas (file image)
Mary-Anne Thomas says she would take a dim view of any deceitful behaviour by public servants. (Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS)

The investigator will prepare a report to be handed to the health department and minister.

Ambulance Victoria is separately investigating the allegation.

An anonymous whistleblower first made the allegation to the Victorian Public Sector Commission in late August, and the minister and her office were notified.

It was then referred to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Ombudsman, both of which declined to investigate further.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto on Thursday expressed concern about the incident calling for a retired judge or body independent of government to take over the investigation.

But shadow cabinet member and local MP Richard Riordan defended the hospital's practices.

"That they brought community members, people who are working not only in the organisation, but received the service of it, have helped and worked with the agency to demonstrate capacity constraints? Yes, that's okay," he told ABC radio.

Colac Area Health covers about 30,000 people in the Corangamite, Colac Otway and Surf Coast Shires.