Working in Public vs Private Hospitals

Waiting room of an Australian hospital

Public hospitals are those which typically are funded mainly by the government and which provide medical care free of charge. In Australia, public hospitals are funded predominantly by both state and federal governments.

Operating hours of public hospitals depend on the location. Most public hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, however services may be limited or restricted in some of the smaller hospitals or those in rural areas.

Services provided at public hospitals can include elective and emergency surgery, maternity services, and rehabilitation programs.


Some public hospitals specialise only in a particular service, for example psychiatric hospitals, which provide care to people with mental health problems. Services may be provided on an outpatient basis or require admission. Emergency Departments are usually attached to public hospitals.

Private hospitals are those owned and managed by private organisations which may be for-profit or not-for-profit. They are funded mainly by private health insurance and out-of-pocket payments by patients but may also attract some government funding. Depending on their size and the type of services they provide, private hospitals may operate 24/7 or on a day-only basis.

The number of private hospitals in Australia is growing due to increased demand, along with the majority of Australians having some form of private health insurance. Private hospitals in Australia have to be accredited and comply with minimum regulations for patient safety and care.

Whether you choose to work in a public or private hospital will ultimately depend on the type of work you wish to do and where. In the 2013 financial year there were 746 public hospitals and 592 private hospitals in Australia.

Consequently, there are more opportunities for employment in public hospitals because there are more of them and they tend to employ more staff overall.

Pay rates in Australia tend to be similar between public and private hospitals so the decision to work in a public vs private hospital often comes down to lifestyle. Those working in a public hospital tend to be on a roster system and workloads can get very busy, particularly during health emergencies, such as the recent thunderstorm asthma epidemic which saw 1900 calls to ambulance services in Victoria on one evening.

Private hospitals may offer more stable work hours and patient loads. Those currently working in private hospitals say they also enjoy the working environment and being part of a smaller team. If you enjoy being part of a busy team and seeing a diverse range of patients then public hospital employment may be a better option for you.

Healthstaff Recruitment has a range of roles available in both the public and private sectors so please feel free to browse our job vacancies today for your next career opportunity.