Last week, health ministers from Australia’s eight states and territories asked for immediate additional funding from the federal government to inject more resources into public hospitals as the country reopens:
“States and territories are under unrelenting strain due to the current Covid-19 demands and the pre-existing trend of increased hospital activity,” the ministers said in a letter to federal health minister Greg Hunt.
“We are entering into the most critical phase of the Covid-19 pandemic response for our hospital systems.
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“All states and territories require immediate additional Commonwealth funding to support the pressures currently on our health systems.”
However, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday told states to increase their hospital funding to deal with a surge in COVID cases:
Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was up to the states and territories to increase funding if they believed their hospitals were not ready for the challenge, arguing the Commonwealth had boosted spending by 71 per cent in recent years…
“We think Queensland hospitals are well-prepared based on the undertakings, advice and the information they have given,” he said.
“There’s constant review, though, that’s exactly what we do with every element of COVID – constant review to make sure that anything that can be improved is done.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also accused Queensland of extortion:
“I mean, to go down this point and say ‘well, you know, I’m going to hold the Federal Government to ransom and seek to extort money from them on the basis of Covid’, I just don’t think is the right way to go,’’ Mr Morrison said.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Omar Khorshid yesterday backed state and territory governments’ call for more public hospital funding:
“We’re not at all confident about the state of our public hospitals” over the next few months.
“That’s why we’ve been making these calls now for several months saying we need to get ready, that we can’t magically build more hospitals or get more staff, but there are things that can be done to get ready,” he told ABC Afternoon Briefings, warning elective surgery and non-urgent care “will go out the window the moment we start to see Covid cases in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory or WA”…
“What the AMA is now calling for is for both levels of government to recognise that every State and Territory has a crisis with its public hospitals”…
“In every State and Territory public hospitals were overwhelmed before Covid, and of course we’re seeing right now in NSW and Victoria the impact of Covid, on top of the already very large demand on public hospitals…
“Now we can play a blame game, but at the end of the day we need more money into the sector, we need to fix the long-term under investment that’s been a reality for decades now, and the AMA is asking governments to work together, rather than to blame each other, for who’s spending enough money and who isn’t.”
Curiously, the Morrison Government will happily give billions to corporations experiencing rising profits with no strings attached, and give money for carparks and overpriced land. But money for hospitals and the community’s health during a pandemic is somehow extortion?
Does Scott Morrison want the states to open up or not? Or does he only care about enriching his donors?
Decades of hospital underinvestment, combined with rapid immigration-driven population growth, left Australia dangerously exposed to cope with the pandemic. The federal government must stop passing the buck and boost funding.