House debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Hospitals

2:25 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. In the six weeks between now and when parliament is due to meet next, the number of COVID patients in New South Wales intensive care units is expected to peak. Today, the Australian Medical Association warned that Australia's hospital system is unprepared for a sharp increase in critically ill patients. What extra resources will the Prime Minister give the nation's health system so it can cope?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. In my discussions with the New South Wales Premier on these very issues—and I believe her public statements have also reflected this fact. They understand that peaks in ICU needs in New South Wales will be reached later in October. That's their most recent information, and they are modelling these issues regularly to ensure that they are mapping their resources and capacities against their expected demand.

This is an important project that I have initiated through the secretary of the Department of Health and the national cabinet process. We're doing this right across the country. This is not a new item; this is something that has been done by the secretary of the Department of Health for many months. In fact, from the start of the pandemic, it has been the most regular matter that we have continued to investigate and review to ensure the system capacity. That's why some $6 billion of additional resources have been provided to states and territories, right across the country, as part of our funding partnership with the states and territories to co-share the burden—to co-share meeting the demand in and through the state public health systems to make sure they can meet the emerging demands.

That goes on top of the fact that funding for public hospital services in all states and territories has grown substantially, from $13.3 billion to $25.5 billion, some 92 per cent, since we came to government. Funding is projected to continue to grow under the current 20- to 25-year National Health Reform Agreement, providing $135.4 billion between 2020-21 and 2024-25. That began preparation in February 2020.

We have increased ICU capacity, from 2,000 to 7½ thousand ventilated beds nationwide, and invested $30 billion in COVID health measures, which includes the $6 billion I've already referred to. That includes establishing telehealth and GP respiratory clinics to ease pressure on hospitals and state workforces. And, as I said, we're investing over $6 billion directly into state hospitals.

There's the private hospital partnership, which provides a 100 per cent contribution—integration of private hospitals with state and territory health systems to ensure that over 30,000 hospital beds and the sector's 105,000-strong skilled workforce is available alongside the public health sector. And we established a testing system, with over 32 million tests, and which is now testing at over 200,000 a day.

The Commonwealth government, every single time when these needs have been highlighted, has stepped up. We've supported our states and territories and we have carried that load with them—fifty-fifty all the way. The planning continues because the pandemic continues to change. The secretary of Health, Professor Murphy, has been working with his colleagues consistently all throughout the pandemic to ensure that what is required is available because, of course, the public health system is an important part of implementing the national plan. (Time expired)