Thursday, 2 September 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Intensive care at Liverpool Hospital is already beyond capacity, with COVID patients being sent to other hospitals as far away as Wollongong. There are extra ventilators, yes, but not enough ICU nurses to run them. Why is training and recruitment of additional intensive care nurses only happening now, 18 months into the pandemic?
I would respectfully correct the member for Macarthur. I respect his work in the community, but on this occasion he's wrong. The program for upskilling additional nurses began in February last year. Through that process we have seen approximately 20,000 nurses who are skilled in ICU. We've seen many other nurses who've been brought back to the system. The approach for protecting, preserving and strengthening the hospital system was laid out in February last year in Australian health sector emergency response plan for novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
We're assisting in five particular ways. One, of course, is in terms of the specific training of nurses, including the upskilling to ICU. That was commenced not just a year ago; it was 18 months ago. In relation to that, we're also assisting, secondly, with beds, thirdly, with ventilators, fourthly, with funding and, fifthly, with PPE. To run through those, the private hospitals partnership agreement, or what is known as the private hospitals viability guarantee, creates a national partnership. It brings 30,000 beds, 57,000 nurses and over 100,000 staff into a partnership which can be drawn upon by any of the states and territories. At this stage, New South Wales has activated that and now has over 19 hospitals in partnership. They are able to draw upon beds, nursing staff, general staff, ICU availability and ventilator capacity. In addition to that, the Commonwealth is able to provide and has provided through the National Medical Stockpile, gloves, gowns, goggles, surgical masks and N-95 masks. All of these have been activated.
I will ask the member for Macarthur to resume his seat. It's not a matter for debate. The minister was very relevant on that subject at the beginning of his answer and the material he's now providing is providing further information on the topic. The minister has the call.
In addition to the training of nursing staff and the upskilling, particularly for ICU capacity, there's the provision of nursing staff through the private hospitals viability guarantee, which has already been activated within New South Wales and then, of course, the provision of funding. So far, $6 billion has been provided to the Australian public health system for public hospitals. In New South Wales, $1.1 billion has been provided through that partnership. We are expecting another $1.4 billion. So if you bring it all together—nursing staff, beds, ICU capacity, ventilation capacity, funding and PPE—these are all of the things which we are bringing on the basis of the plan, which was developed 18 months ago, which is being continuously reviewed and which is being implemented at this moment.