Western Australia’s health minister Roger Cook has cracked down on the federal government, saying WA hospitals have seen increased demand due to COVID-19 — despite the fact that the state has not had a major outbreak — and more funding is needed.
- Mr Cook says WA hospitals already have demand pressures due to COVID-19
- He says an increase in the demand for mental health explains part of the increase
- Morrison says better management rather than extra funding is needed
Delta is coming and I’m tired of the Commonwealth continuing to fail in its national leadership commitments to help the country [to] get out of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Cook said.
“It’s time for the Prime Minister to be the Prime Minister of Australia, not just New South Wales.”
On Thursday, Mr Morrison said states had been able to prepare for COVID-19 surges in their health systems for the past 18 months, and the federal government had provided enough money to fund hospitals.
Morrison said both New South Wales and Victoria had coped with increases in demand for hospitals with funding at current levels.
“They have the same funding schemes as any other state and territory, but they have to deal with it,” he said.
“So this is not about funding, it’s about managing hospital systems.”
Morrison said stress on hospital systems in some states and territories had “nothing to do with COVID,” but Cook said that was not the case.
“We have had a significant increase in demand as a result of the experience of COVID-19,” he said.
It included presentations of mental health and people postponing care from 2020, according to Cook.
But he also blamed Commonwealth “failures” in their management of NDIS and elderly care patients.
Tensions between WA and federal governments follow a joint letter from state and territory ministers to their federal counterpart, Greg Hunt, in late September, calling for more hospital funding.
Cook, one of the signatories, said Friday that the national agreement “was not fit for purpose”.
“We know that when Delta enters WA, we will meet an unprecedented demand in our hospital system,” he said.
And while insisting that the state build its capacity with 330 new beds and 40 ICU bays, he wanted the federal government to show more support.
But Mr Cook said if WA was hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, it would take about six months before it reached a peak, giving the state time to prepare.
Doctors say ‘no overvoltage capacity’ in the system
Despite only six COVID-19 cases at WA hospitals, Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM) president Dr. John Bonning that the state health system was under “massive” pressure due to lack of long-term planning.
“WA’s healthcare system has no wave capability to handle the current patient burden, let alone the expected increase in COVID-19 patients,” he said.
“While a great deal of work is being done by clinicians and administrators behind the scenes to prepare WA for the inevitable COVID-19 outbreak, frontline clinicians are very nervous about the effects of COVID-19 on the healthcare system when-not-if-it comes.”
Dr. Bonning said clinicians had reported a strengthening of the workforce due to more funding from the state government, but additional resources were needed.
“ACEM believes that a 50/50 cost share between the states and the Commonwealth is fair and equitable and encourages the federal government to support the health care system in WA – and in other states – at this crucial time.”
School vaccinations on the way
Meanwhile, when the school resumed on Monday, Cook said there would soon be an announcement about expanding vaccines for high school students.
It is expected that the program will be rolled out at more than 20 schools starting next week.
“There will be a combination of within reach [vaccinations], but also to get children to participate in the larger vaccination centers, ”he said.
The government has previously said the program would be for students aged 12 and over, where boarding schools and educational support options are a priority.
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