Date published: 
1 July 2022
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

JOURNALIST:

The health ministers meeting this morning, you know the first meeting of health ministers, what are you expecting will be on the agenda?

MARK BUTLER, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE:

Well obviously, that dealing with the current waves of COVID and the impact that’s having on the hospital system and which we are also dealing with influenza as an issue that’s states want to discuss with us.

But what I’m really looking forward to though is getting back to a position where the Commonwealth and states can talk constructively.

Too often over the last couple of years they’ve come together with the Commonwealth treating the states more as opponents rather than partners in protecting our health system.

JOURNALIST:

And in terms of the disability plan for getting … discharging people with disabilities from hospitals, how important is that to relieve pressure on that system as you’ve just said.

BUTLER:

Well as Bill Shorten has made clear, that is critically important to ensure the best possible appropriate care for people living with a disability and also to relieve some of that pressure on hospitals and Minister Shorten is committed to working with his colleagues… disability ministers at a state level but I imagine also there will be discussions about that today.

JOURNALIST:

Are you all getting together in person or over remote?

BUTLER:

Everyone is here, we had dinner last night. We were able to have a preliminary discussion about these issues, and we will have a formal meeting today.

JOURNALIS:

You had quite a dire warning about the COVID situation yesterday, especially with the 300 deaths. Are you expecting that to start rising again over the winter, as winter really takes hold?

BUTLER:

I think we are expecting a further wave of COVID over the coming months, so we are seeing a new subvariant, the BA.4 and the BA.5 subvariants take hold here in Australia. We’ve seen overseas that there is a greater risk of reinfection so if you have had COVID earlier this year, in the first wave over summer there is a risk that you are open to reinfection. So for those people who’ve had two shots  of the vaccine, maybe even been infected over summer, I do encourage you to go out and get that booster that will provide further protection against the possibility of reinfection with these new subvariants over the coming months.

JOURNALIST:

Did the states raise anything with you particularly last night over the dinner that they wanted to put on the agenda for today?
 

BUTLER:

Well as I said we will be talking about the COVID situation obviously but also we want to talk to them about ways in which we partner in the implementation of our election commitments. 50 urgent care centres taking pressure off hospitals around the country, the Strengthening Medicare Task force and a range of our aged care reforms which are important to state governments as well.

JOURNALIST:

And what about the workforce in terms of nurses? Will there be a foreign – an increase in foreign migrants or foreign workers being able to come in and help with the nursing shortage?
 

BUTLER:

Well Australia has always relied upon on a mix of Australian-trained and overseas-trained doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers for that matter and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

We will be having a talk about health workforce. There is clearly a crisis in terms of the supply of nurses, doctors and aged care workers - very serious problem in aged care, and we will be having a deep discussion about that today.

JOURNALIST:

And just lastly on the Pfizer jab for kids, when will parents, you know, I guess be able to take their kids to the doctor?

BUTLER:

Well the answer is we don’t really know yet. The Moderna application has been before the TGA now for some time and I’d expect that decision to be made in the coming weeks. Pfizer was given approval yesterday to submit the application but that will take a little bit longer but imagine it would be still some weeks before parents know whether or not they have the ability to have their really young children under five vaccinated from COVID. In the meantime though, if you haven’t had your under five-year-old vaccinated from the flu I would encourage parents to do that. The flu is a virus which is particularly serious for under five-year-olds and vaccination rates for that age group are running behind the historical average.

JOURNALIST:

Alright, I appreciate your time Minister, thank you.

BUTLER:

Thanks very much.

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