Australian Government partnership with private health sector secures 30,000 hospital beds and 105,000 nurses and staff, to help fight COVID-19 pandemic
A joint media release with Dr Nick Coatsworth, Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer, and Alison McMillan, Australian Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, about the Australian Government partnership with the private hospital sector to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
The Australian Government has partnered with the private hospital sector to ensure the full resources of our world class health system, are ready and focussed on treating patients as required, through the coronavirus pandemic.
Our Government has guaranteed the viability and capacity of the private hospital sector, in an agreement that will ensure over 30,000 hospital beds, and the sector’s 105,000 skilled workforce, is available alongside the public hospital sector.
This will strengthen our Australian COVID-19 response, and preserve the sector’s capacity to resume hospital services after the epidemic.
The Commonwealth will offer agreements to all 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals to ensure their viability, in return for maintenance and capacity during the COVID-19 response.
State and territory governments will also complete private hospital COVID-19 partnership agreements in the coming days.
In an unprecedented move, private hospitals, including both overnight and day hospitals, will integrate with state and territory health systems in the COVID-19 response.
These facilities will be required to make infrastructure, essential equipment (including ventilators), supplies (including PPE), workforce and additional resources fully available to the state and territory hospital system or the Australian Government.
They will also continue to support the needs of long-stay public hospital National Disability Insurance Scheme participants, and aged care patients and general needs patients.
In conjunction with Commonwealth, State and Territory Health Ministers, private hospitals will support the COVID-19 response through services including but not limited to:
- Hospital services for public patients – both positive and negative for COVID‑19.
- Category 1 elective surgery.
- Utilisation of wards and theatres to expand ICU capacity.
- Accommodation for quarantine and isolation cases where necessary, and safety procedures and training are in place, including:
- Cruise and flight covid-19 passengers.
- Quarantine of vulnerable members of the community.
- Isolation of infected vulnerable COVID-19 patients.
This is a landmark decision. Our Government is underwriting the future of the private hospital sector to:
- Ensure health network capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Provide workforce retention that includes medical, nursing, clinical and ancillary staff to preserve the private hospital sector.
- Allow activities such as non-urgent elective surgery to resume and accelerate at the appropriate time, once the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.
Our government recognises the fundamental and heroic role of our medical and nursing staff and this agreement further strengthens our health system. It gives us the capacity to respond to COVID-19 now, and the ability to preserve our hospital network for our nation’s health needs once we emerge from the crisis.
I personally want to thank our medical, nursing and allied health and support staff for their skill, dedication and compassion.
Health professionals will be provided appropriate training and equipment to ensure patient care is safe, and the health and safety of the workforce is maintained.
The arrangements will be reviewed throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure ongoing appropriateness.
Ultimately our fundamental priority is the health and well-being of all Australians.
Australian Private Hospitals Association
Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff thanked the Minister for delivering on his promise to the sector: “By guaranteeing the viability of Australia’s private hospitals, the Minister has ensured Australians will have access to the full capacity of the private hospital system, including 35% of all intensive care beds, as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates. He has also ensured all private hospitals and day hospitals will be here and available to address the large surgical backlog that will need to be addressed when the pandemic is over – this is a significant achievement.”
Catholic Health Australia
Australia’s largest grouping of not-for-profit health providers, Catholic Health Australia, welcomed the news that the Morrison Government will ensure its hospitals will be able to continue the fight against coronavirus. The National Coronavirus partnership will provide the certainty that the not-for-profit hospital sector needs to maintain its full capacity and shift its service offerings towards fighting coronavirus. Catholic hospitals account for around 30 per cent of all private hospital patients and approximately 10 per cent of all healthcare needs across Australia.
Catholic Health Australia (CHA) CEO Pat Garcia said: “The not-for-profit Catholic hospitals welcome the Morrison Government's National Viability for Capacity Guarantee. This deal, made in conjunction with the State and Territory partnership agreements, will ensure that everyone in the health sector - the private sector, Catholic non-profits and the public hospitals - will be working together to fight this pandemic.
“Our doctors and nurses have been ready for weeks but this deal ensures they can remain at their posts. Minister Hunt has guaranteed the Catholic hospital network’s viability through this pandemic. The Australian public can now take comfort that its 80 hospitals are well placed to continue to serve the sick over the course of this pandemic, and beyond.”
Day Hospitals Australia
A spokesperson for Day Hospitals Australia welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s viability for capacity guarantee, which will ensure the survival of the day-hospital sector, both throughout the COVID-19 crisis and into the future.
“This agreement will provide significant additional capacity to an integrated public and private health system. Australia’s 357 day hospitals are ready to provide whatever services are needed to assist in combating the coronavirus,” the spokesperson said.
“Day hospitals have the capability to support minor emergency surgery as well as urgent elective surgery across the majority of medical specialties. The skilled nursing teams employed in day hospitals have expertise across a range of specialties, and this guarantee will ensure they are available to assist wherever they are needed - in their own hospitals or deployed where additional clinical teams are required.
“This capacity guarantee ensures that the capabilities embedded in day hospitals can be made available to spread the patient load throughout the challenge ahead. The viability of the day hospital sector is critical to the recovery period that will follow the current crisis. By ensuring the future of our sector, this in turn will support the sustainability of the entire private health industry. The day hospital sector expresses its sincere gratitude to the Australian Government for the viability for capacity guarantee agreement.”
Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation
Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Annie Butler said: “The ANMF welcomes the work of the Australian Government to guarantee the viability and capacity of the private health sector as a significant step in the united approach to combating COVID-19.
“Crucially, it seeks to ensure that the jobs of highly skilled nurses and midwives and other critical health workers are retained during this time and that Australia is in the best position to protect the health and wellbeing of all Australians in fighting this pandemic by using all available resources”
Council of Medical College Presidents
Chair of Council of Medical College Presidents Professor Kym Jenkins said: “The strain Covid19 is placing and will continue to place on our health system is unprecedented - never before has it been so imperative and essential for the establishment of a partnership such as this, ensuring the viability of the private components of Australia’s but also bringing Commonwealth, States and Territories working together to maintain capacity in our overall health system.”