JOURNALIST: Just firstly on this, how does it feel to be able to be here today at the ground breaking ceremony for a first in the southern hemisphere?
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE, MARK BUTLER: This is such a critical partnership between Moderna and the Victorian and Australian Governments to ensure we have security of supply of these next generation mRNA vaccines for the future, but also, to get the maximum return for Australians. Not only are we going to see great research and development here, we're going to see jobs. We want to see a future made in Australia, whether that's traditional manufacturing or state of the art vaccine manufacturing. So this is progressing really well. In the next couple of years you'll see the building finished and then fitted out, so that we have the first end to end mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in the southern hemisphere.
JOURNALIST: And can you just talk about a bit of the importance of that? Obviously, we've seen the pandemic over the past, now coming on to three years. But what will it mean in the case there are new variants or a new pandemic that comes? How much impact will it make for Australia's response?
BUTLER: It's going to be critically important for pandemic preparedness into the future, but we also know that this new mRNA technology is moving into different disease areas - cardiovascular disease, some of the other major health challenges that countries like Australia face. So obviously, it's important for future pandemics, respiratory vaccines for influenza, as well as Coronavirus' like COVID. But we think this is really the cutting edge of future medical therapeutics as well.
JOURNALIST: Now here in Victoria, the third hospital to say - the Royal Melbourne Hospital - is considering a pause on some elective surgeries because of more staff being off due to sickness - some with COVID and also increased demand - is there anything that federal government can do to step up services and support here in Victoria to prevent more hospitals doing the same?
BUTLER: I'm meeting with my Health Minister colleagues again next week, we're meeting every few weeks at the moment to talk about the different pressures on the health system. And the fourth Omicron wave of 2022 is obviously an additional pressure that we're seeing, not only through the hospital systems around the country, but also in aged care facilities as well. So we're working as hard as we can, particularly to protect the most vulnerable in the community from severe disease and hospitalisations. But that is having pressure on elective surgery in a number of jurisdictions because of the impact on staff.
JOURNALIST: And the Royal Children's Hospital here in Melbourne on Monday had to release this statement because some patients were being told they could wait up to 12 hours to get treatment because of those same kind of issues that we've spoke about here. What is the importance of getting more support to GPs to ensure that those category four and five patients aren't going to emergency departments and backlogging services there?
BUTLER: The more we can provide services for people out in the community where and when they need it, rather than people having to go to hospital because they have no alternative, the better things are going to be in our hospital system. That's why Labor took to the last election the commitment of 50 Urgent Care Clinics. I know the Andrews Government also has a commitment around urgent care clinics. We know that is going to relieve pressure from hospitals, but it's also going to make it easier for families to see a doctor quickly when and where they need it. Often, these conditions are able to be dealt with quite adequately in the community, but if there isn't a GP open and available in your area, then you aren't going to obviously take it to the hospital. So we're committed to rolling those Urgent Care Clinics through 2023. We're working very closely with all state governments including the Andrews Government on the model of care, on the location of those centres. We're very confident that will provide much better support to communities but also to the hospital system.