The University of Melbourne announces privatisation of vet hospital

Despite a recent multimillion dollar redevelopment of the hospital, the University is cutting its ties to U-Vet Werribee.

The University of Melbourne has announced that it will cease to operate its U-Vet animal hospital in Werribee from December 24, passing operations to a private provider. 

More than 80 staff will be made redundant as a result of the move. Affected staff must reapply to continue being employed at U-Vet. 

The University blames the closing on “ongoing operational challenges”, including difficulties in retaining staff, a fall in revenue, and a reduced caseload.

Werribee Animal Hospital, Melbourne’s only teaching vet hospital, will be leased out to Greencross Pet Wellness Company, a nationwide private veterinary services provider, starting their veterinary practice from January 2023. 

According to an agreement between the University and Greencross, several University staff will work with the veterinary general practice to “provide clinical teaching and placement opportunities” for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students.

The National Tertiary Education Union’s University of Melbourne Branch condemned this closure. “In 2019, the University spent $63 million on redevelopment for Vet Science buildings in Werribee and Parkville — three years later, the U-Vet hospital is being shut,” said UniMelb NTEU Branch President Annette Herrera.

The University called the transfer of teaching operations to Greencross an “embedded distributed” clinical teaching model, practised by various accredited veterinary schools globally. However, Herrera called this privatised model “disheartening”, and said that “a University with billions in funding that purports to be for the public good needs a higher standard of transparency, accountability to its staff, students, alumni and community.”

The University has announced that the redeployment and payout periods for the redundant staff will start from January 2023, ensuring remuneration for them over the holiday season.

In her statement, Herrera demanded that redundancy packages be offered to those wishing to leave, and called on the State Government to “ensure greater accountability on a University that continues to put its real estate portfolio over staff and students.”