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Growing and supporting Australia’s health system and aged care capacity

The Australian Government is supporting the states and territories to increase the capacity of the health system, as the country enters the next phase of the National Plan to re-open and live with COVID-19.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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The Australian Government is supporting the states and territories to increase the capacity of the health system, as the country enters the next phase of the National Plan to re-open and live with COVID-19.

In total, the Government has committed more than $32 billion in additional health expenditure in response to COVID-19.

To further support the states and territories, the Government will extend the Minimum Hospital Funding Guarantee for an additional year (to 30 June 2022) in recognition that COVID-19 is still having a significant impact on public hospitals, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria.

The funding contribution for public hospitals services in all states and territories under the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA) has grown substantially, from $13.3 billion in 2012–13 to $25.5 billion in 2019–20, a 92% increase. Over this same period, state and territory funding for their own hospitals has only recorded 44% growth.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said “The extension will provide security of funding for our critical public hospitals while the National Plan is implemented.”

“Australian’s can rest assured, they have access to a world class health system whenever and wherever they need it,” Minister Hunt said. “As restrictions are easing around Australia, particularly in areas which have experienced outbreaks of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in 2021, many hospitals are returning their focus on the jobs they do so well, emergency care, cancer care, elective surgery and all the critical services which have been less of a priority during the pandemic.”

The 2019–20 minimum hospital funding guarantee delivered a $532 million increase to the states’ 2019–20 National Health Reform Agreement entitlements. 

Regional Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie said the Government will facilitate the migration of health practitioners with confirmed employment in the state and territory health system, including in regional areas, through above-cap places on commercial flights to boost the health workforce. 

“The Government is investing a further $8 million to extend support to AUSMAT, for its domestic deployment capacity to support remote and vulnerable communities facing future COVID-19 outbreaks,” Dr Gillespie said. 

“AUSMAT’s deployment to western and far western New South Wales earlier this year improved access to health care and vaccines for local communities during outbreaks.” 

To support senior Australians move from hospital into their homes or residential aged care more quickly, the Government is providing $16.6 million funding for an extra 357 temporary Transition Care Programme places.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck said, “The additional capacity will help an additional 1,000 senior Australians to access transition care between now and 30 June 2022.”

“The Transition Care Programme provides up to 12 weeks of short-term post-hospital restorative care for senior Australians, providing services such as allied health and nursing support to enable people to return to their own homes or an aged care home, or a mix of both, rather than having to remain in hospital,” Minister Colbeck said.

Specifically, the Northern Territory will also receive 10 new permanent Transition Care places with an annual investment of more than $780,000 from the Australian Government, to support more than 40 additional senior Territorians each year.

These announcements build on the significant funding of more than $180 million already announced to support the primary care health sector that includes: 

  • National COVID Triage, Management and Escalation Infrastructure: readying the national health call centre Healthdirect to connect COVID-positive people who receive a positive COVID-19 laboratory test result are contacted as early as possible and connected to the right level of care and support.
  • COVID Community Care Pathways: providing clear plans on where and how COVID positive people will be managed through primary and community care services, and when care needs to be delivered through hospitals.
  • Additional MBS item for general practitioners: providing a rebate of $25 which can be claimed in addition to existing general consultation items, to support face-face care of COVID-19 positive patients.
  • Home visits for patients recovering at home: commissioning home visits by practice nurses, nurse practitioners and medical deputising services for patients requiring home visits or after hours services while under GP management with a particular focus on regional and rural areas.
  • National Medical Stockpile supplies to support primary health care: procuring supplies of pulse oximeters and strengthening distribution arrangements for personal protective equipment (PPE) to general practice and other primary health care settings seeing COVID-positive people, with particular emphasis on strengthening the supply chain for rural and remote practices.
  • General Practice Respiratory Clinics (GPRCs): Extending the reach and the role of our network of GPRCs so that COVID-positive people without an available usual GP, or where access to GPs is limited, have a general practice that they can safely attend for assessment and management rather than presenting at an emergency department in non-urgent circumstances.
  • COVID-19 Management Guidelines: the RACGP is urgently updating its COVID-19 Management Guidelines for GPs to include treatment of COVID positive patients with moderate symptoms and to support care for COVID-19 positive people at home.
  • Continued dispensing arrangements: extending the temporary Continued Dispensing (Emergency Measures) for the dispensing of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) until 30 June 2022. 

Combined, these measures further support the continued implementation of the National Plan and deliver on the Government’s commitment to a timely and safe re-opening of Australia.


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