St John of God Bendigo Hospital could be forced to end its maternity and ICU services due to declining patient numbers.
Chief executive Michael Hogan said demand for the the two services had reduced in the past few years.
"For some time, and particularly post-COVID, there's been a general lessening of activity in most private hospitals across Australia," he said.
"We've expected it to bounce back post-COVID and it hasn't done that and so we, like other hospitals, are now looking closely at individual services and determining whether they're sustainable to continue, because it's having a negative impact on our financial viability."
In the last 12 months, the number of births was in the "high 200s", which was a "relatively low" number.
"In the ideal world for us, we'd be around sort of high 300s, maybe 400, would be what I'd call a very sustainable number," Mr Hogan said.
"It allows you to have enough staff recruited, which gives you backup and means that your staff have got the skills to do the job because they're obviously delivering babies more often."
A decline in the services could also be linked to more younger people choosing not to take out private health insurance, Mr Hogan said.
ICU use has dropped
The hospital's ICU, which has an eight-bed capacity, had seen a drop of 12 per cent compared to pre-COVID levels.
"That's significant for us because it is expensive to run an ICU," Mr Hogan said.
"When you have a 12 per cent drop in activity level, that certainly has an impact on how much we're funded to support those costs."
Around 650 to 700 people are admitted to St John of God Bendigo's ICU, and patients usually had a "very short stay", leading to high turnover.
As a not-for-profit organisation, the private hospital had a "responsibility to ensure that services are not operating at a financial deficit", Mr Hogan said.
There were about 20 to 30 staff in both ICU and maternity services and the hospital's first option would be to redeploy them into other areas if the services closed.
"We've been short of nurses post-COVID and short of other clinicians, so the last thing we really want to be doing is losing clinicians," Mr Hogan said.
"Most of our midwives are trained registered nurses so they can operate in other areas and our ICU trained nurses also can operate in other areas and whether they choose to and want to, because quite often they have that specialty skill and they want to keep using."
The review would last about five weeks and the main priority was to "find a way to continue the services".
"We are open to different ways of delivering these services, embracing partnership with Bendigo Health or other service delivery options," Mr Hogan said.
All services would continue as usual until the review was complete.
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