Tuesday, 27 October 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government's plan to build capacity in our hospital system through the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened our hospitals and helped to keep Australians safe?
Dr Freelander interjecting—
I want to thank the member for Robertson, who has not only been a passionate local advocate for the Central Coast medical school but, in a great sense of prescience, has been an advocate for action on respiratory and immunological diseases since before this year. This year, as we know, has in many ways been the hardest of years, and for Victoria it's been the darkest of winters. The fact that we now have light is something to welcome.
We know that when we look at Australia today, with two cases of COVID in the community, and we then look at the world, with over 400,000 cases for a sixth consecutive day, we can recognise the extraordinary achievement which came from Australia having, executing and implementing a plan from the earliest of days in January and February. That plan included dealing with the pandemic in capacity, borders, testing, tracing, distancing and containment.
One of the central elements of our capacity was to boost and support our hospital capacity. That started with making sure that we would never see what we saw in Italy, Spain, France and New York with the fight for ventilators and respiratory equipment. The building and construction of a national capacity of 7½ thousand ventilators was overseen by the minister for industry, the private sector, the medical community and Australian firms. They were all working together in one of the most important and significant Australian joint collaborative projects.
It was also involving the work set out on 13 March of the public hospital agreement for COVID-19, which the Prime Minister brokered with all of the states and territories, which has seen us invest and allocate $3.1 billion for our public hospital capacity. As well as that, there's the private hospital capacity with the private hospital viability guarantee, which brought over 30,000 hospital beds, $1.7 billion of allocated funding and over 100,000 potential workers into that sector. It has seen over 500 people in Victoria transferred to those private hospitals and given support. Then, because we know this disease can be ongoing, we kept those going. We saw in Victoria 140 days ago a zero day and, since then, we've seen over 18½ thousand cases, so we know that this disease can come back. We know we have to prepare. That's why, in the midst of a pandemic, we brokered an agreement which adds an additional $33 billion to hospital services within Australia. This year we've prepared our hospitals for the worst of all possible outcomes, but we've also prepared them for the future to save and protect lives.