Today’s ACT Budget will inject half a billion dollars into the ACT’s health system, as well as almost $90 million to continue the Territory’s COVID-19 public health response and push forward with the vaccine rollout.
The ACT Government says the $500 million boost over four years will help meet growing demand for core services across the ACT public health system and the increased complexity of health service delivery.
Initiatives in the Budget focus on expanding critical hospital services and increasing community and home-based health services, including:
- The first stage of a phased introduction of minimum nurse and midwifery to patient ratios at the Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital Bruce
- An expansion of the Canberra Hospital Emergency Department to better respond to service demand pressures and to support contemporary models of care
- More elective surgeries and expanded emergency surgery capacity and post-surgery care
- An increase in home-based palliative care services, as well as supporting five new inpatient beds at Clare Holland House hospice
- Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT to provide sexual health education, information and support services for people with disability.
Of the nearly $90 million earmarked to the COVID response, almost $65 million will be allocated to manage the impact of the virus on the ACT community and provide the Chief Health Officer with the resources to contain its spread, and $22.5 million will go to the vaccine program to ensure vaccines are available for all eligible Canberrans.
The ACT will be one of the first jurisdictions in Australia to reach 80 per cent full vaccination, and the government believes it is also on track to go well beyond this to reach around 95 per cent.
The money includes a range of staff and operational costs, as well as funding for contact tracing teams, COVID testing and public health teams, additional cleaning for public schools and public transport, quarantine costs, hospital and testing services, communication to the community and education, engagement, and compliance activities.
The ACT Hardship Fund has also been extended for 12 months to 30 June 2022 to ensure Canberrans who are temporarily unable to work under a COVID-19 direction or health guidance are not left behind.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the additional funding would ensure the government can continue its effective public health response as the ACT moves out of lockdown and through the phased easing of restrictions.
“Vaccination is an essential part of our COVID response,” Mr Barr said.
“The more Canberrans we can vaccinate, the safer our city will be.”
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the extra funding would continue to protect the community and guide Canberra along the pathway out of lockdown.
“Our teams across the ACT Government have been doing an incredible job responding to the pandemic,” she said.
“We have worked extremely hard to get as many people vaccinated as possible and will continue the rollout until everyone in the ACT who wants to be vaccinated has the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
The big-spending Budget to be delivered this evening is expected to plunge the ACT even deeper into the red due to the continuing pandemic response and funding of infrastructure and industry support programs to revive the economy.