House debates

Monday, 23 March 2020

Questions without Notice

Coronavirus

2:28 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Chisholm. Many members in this House have faced many pressures over the last two months. Few have faced more pressures than the member for Chisholm. In the earliest days of this outbreak, when borders were closed with China, perhaps before almost any other significant country, she along with others fielded many of the questions and the pressures that fell upon the Chinese community particularly. She managed that with great grace and dignity and effectiveness.

Our overall plan is built around four pillars: firstly, primary care; secondly, aged care; thirdly, hospitals; fourthly, vaccines and medical research. That is underpinned by the work in relation to critical supplies, which has been addressed during the course of today.

In relation to primary care, we focused, as I said, on telehealth earlier. Those facilities are now being ramped up to stage 3. As I have indicated, we will work to a whole-of-population plan in conjunction with the medical authorities and representatives over the course of the coming days, with more than 100,000 services having been provided.

In relation to testing, this has been one of our most important elements. There was a global supply of test kits. I can inform the House we now have a significant number of test kits, more than 1½ million test kits, of different forms, on order. We have had a series of different approvals provided by the TGA over the course of the weekend for different types of what are called point-of-care tests. These will include different types of finger-prick tests, and significant orders have been made. We also have the work on preparation for Indigenous communities.

I particularly want to focus on aged care. More than half a billion dollars all up, with an initial $100 million and an over $440 million package, has been provided. This is looking at three elements in relation to aged care. The first $100 million was about emergency support in cases such as Dorothy Henderson Lodge. The additional funding then goes to ensuring that we have retention of current staff. There will be a significant staff bonus, which will amount to approximately $800 per quarter for full-time equivalent residential-care staff and to $600 per quarter for full-time equivalent home-care staff. Then we have funds for extra staff, and other costs which will be required by aged-care facilities.

We recognise that the pressures on those facilities are great. This is where our most vulnerable are. We have seen, with Dorothy Henderson Lodge, the tragic consequences if infections are allowed in. So, in preparing them, in preparing hospitals, as I mentioned earlier, and in the research, we are taking a comprehensive approach.

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