Private hospitals to be used in coronavirus fight: Health Minister Greg Hunt

Health Minister Greg Hunt made the announcement on Tuesday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Health Minister Greg Hunt made the announcement on Tuesday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The ACT will gain more than 400 extra beds as part of the fight against coronavirus, after a partnership between the federal government, state and territory governments and the private sector was agreed.

Nationally an extra 34,000 beds and 105,000 medical staff from the private sector will be available to the public health sector, under the announcement.

On Tuesday Australia had 4557 cases of the virus, and Health Minister Greg Hunt said 50 people were in intensive care units, with 20 of those needing ventilators. The death toll stands at 19 to date.

State and territory governments will sign deals with private hospitals in the coming days to ensure their equipment, beds and staff are made fully available to supplement the public system.

Hospitals in the private system would be expected to provide hospital services for public patients, including those who weren't needing treatment for coronavirus.

In the ACT the public sector has almost 1000 beds, and capacity will increase by around 40 per cent.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said Canberra Health Services was working to develop an understanding of hospital capacity across the territory.

"It's really about who is best positioned to do what within our health system," Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Canberra Health Services would be working to find out what equipment or capacity it could purchase from the private hospitals.

Mr Hunt said the federal government wasn't taking ownership of private hospitals, but described the partnership as "underwriting the future of the private hospital sector".

It's expected the latest announcement will cost the federal government $1.3 billion, and partnerships with state governments are likely to follow a model led by the Victorian government.

The partnership between the federal government, state governments and the private system would increase capacity and guarantee the viability of 657 private hospitals in Australia, Mr Hunt said.

"It does it in such a way that the hospitals will be available, and their staff will be available, to participate fully in our national response and to be able to bounce back and to support the needs of the population after we emerge from the period of coronavirus," Mr Hunt said.


The agreement would mean more than 105,000 full and part-time hospital staff, including 57,000 nurses and midwives, would keep their jobs and join the fight against coronavirus, Mr Hunt said on Tuesday.

It effectively puts all hospital beds in Australia under a single partnership.

Mr Hunt said the private sector had agreed to be flexible in what it could offer.

That could include taking on public hospital services, setting up flu clinics or testing services in day hospitals, exchanging staff and equipment, making their intensive care units available or providing support for patients coming from aged care homes.

"They have committed to be flexible in a way that is beyond conception," he told reporters in Canberra

"Whilst we're not taking ownership, we have struck a partnership, where in return for the state agreements and the Commonwealth guarantee, they will be fully integrated within the public hospital system."

The Australian Private Hospitals Association said the deal with the federal government would help make up for the loss of elective surgery, being put on hold during the pandemic.

"There was no revenue coming through the door (from elective surgery), which means it was very difficult for us to pay our nurses, maintain buildings and maintain that capacity," the association's chief executive Michael Roff said.

Catholic Health Chief Executive Pat Garcia said the partnership meant all parts of the health sector were working towards the same goal.

"Our doctors and nurses have been ready for weeks but this deal ensures they can remain at their posts," he said.


with AAP

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This story Private hospitals to be used in coronavirus fight first appeared on The Canberra Times.