ACT Health needs Federal funding injection to save lives, says Payne

Alicia Payne MP 18 October 2021 6
Alicia Payne

Federal Member for Canberra Alicia Payne. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Canberra eased lockdown restrictions on Friday (15 October), an incredibly welcome milestone, particularly for our business community, those who have lost work and those for whom lockdown has been particularly isolating or challenging.

We’re at a crucial moment in the pandemic.

While we couldn’t wait to reopen, we anticipate a fresh wave of infections and higher case numbers.


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The need to reopen is obvious, but Australia’s peak medical body, the Australian Medical Association, has warned that our hospital and health system needs to be ready.

The AMA (whose members will be among those who have to handle the fallout) warns high vaccination rates won’t be enough to stop hospitals from becoming further overwhelmed, as we have already seen in Melbourne in Sydney.

The strain on our healthcare workers will only increase – workers who have already been at the coal face for 18 months, working long shifts in full personal protective equipment, watching first-hand the impact of infection control requirements keeping families apart and caring for people unwell or even dying alone.

While immense efforts go into the physical preparations such as surge intensive care units, the human cost for those asked to staff them is unmeasurable and difficult to imagine for those not in their shoes.

It’s why every state and territory health minister has been pleading for an increase in hospital funding from the Federal Government for months.


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The states recently used a joint letter to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to beg for crisis funding to help the already strained system.

In short, the states have already done the heavy lifting during the pandemic, and they want to know that our health system is ready for the next challenge.

The Prime Minister’s response was far from helpful, accusing the states of “shakedown” politics and claiming they’ve had months to plan and prepare, all the while putting pressure on states to ease restrictions, offering no national leadership on national issues such as quarantine, not to mention the vaccination ‘stroll-out’.

But far from a shakedown, the states just want a fair 50-50 cost-sharing agreement with the Commonwealth and a funding guarantee put in place until mid-2024.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith last week told the ABC that an aging population combined with changes to Medicare funding and freezing of rebates meant emergency departments, hospitals, and primary care were under strain even before COVID struck.

Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have the option of keeping their borders closed to manage the risk to their system, but like it or not, the ACT is along for the ride with NSW on account of our geography. The Canberra Hospital is the only tertiary hospital in southern NSW and inextricably linked to the NSW health system.


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Our ACT hospitals are critical not only to care for Canberrans but to care for our NSW neighbours. The Canberra Hospital covers the capital’s 460,000 residents and its catchment also serves a further 230,000 people across the border.

The ACT’s current numbers of hospitals admissions include patients from NSW. The ACT example is a clear demonstration of the need for a national response.

The Prime Minister has criticised state premiers for dividing Australia – properly supporting the health system across the country would be a strong indication that we really are ‘all in this together’.

If we learn from experiences overseas, even those with high vaccination rates, the health emergency is far from over.

Our Prime Minister should care about the health of all Australians.

It’s time the Morrison Government started to take the pandemic seriously by properly funding and supporting the health workers putting their health at risk to look after ours.


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6 Responses to ACT Health needs Federal funding injection to save lives, says Payne
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kenbehrens kenbehrens 6:06 pm 19 Oct 21

Alicia Payne, I guess it comes down to the priorities of the ACT Government. If the Government is so concerned about health, why wasn’t there more funding in your budget?
Why is there a bike track being constructed along Sulwood Drive, when duplication of Athllon was promised?
Why has the the ACT Government prioritised Light Rail construction during a pandemic, when few people are catching public transport?
Wouldn’t it been wise to leave a bit of money in the budget, just in case, there is a health blowout, rather than demand money from the Commonwealth or failing that, further ramping up ACT Rates and charges?

Oscar Mike Oscar Mike 12:15 pm 19 Oct 21

But we have a billion dollar tram

stuart stuart 11:54 am 19 Oct 21

Someone’s raising her profile ahead of an election that is due within the next 6 months.

I wonder what Labor will go with as their main theme this time – mediscare doesnt resonate anymore (not with the swinging voters anyway) – maybe they will go with a pro-environment theme (just don’t mention Green-Coal to them – they don’t like that). I wish there could be a different outcome other than LNP or Labor. There’s just too many sheep (oops, I mean voters) who when they first voted, just voted for the party that their parents supported and have been doing so at every election since.

chewy14 chewy14 11:10 am 19 Oct 21

The Federal Government has paid out hundreds of billions of dollars of support payments throughout the pandemic so to claim they haven’t come to the party on support is just purely ridiculous.

There is also an agreed funding arrangement for hospital and health care between the Feds and the States, if the states want to try and renegotiate it, they can.

But just whinging about wanting more money for state health services is a purely political move, attempting to use the incompetence of state and territory health departments, poor state government management and COVID as leverage.

And all that might be reasonable if the state and territory government’s were operating efficiently and not wasting billions on their own pet projects. But they aren’t.

If they want more money in health, they are free to reprioritise their own budgets and give those areas more money. Or they can make those areas operate more efficiently, which in the ACT as an example is clearly an issue.

Perhaps the MP should leave the attempts at partisan pointscoring to others.

    Finagen_Freeman Finagen_Freeman 7:27 pm 19 Oct 21

    You’ve nailed it.
    ACT runs the least efficient health care system in Australia. Four years ago it was supposed to follow other States and adopt an efficiency funding system known as Activity Based Funding.

    Has it? Nope.
    Will it? Not while it’s as inefficient as it is.
    Does the vast majority of the ACT population care? Clearly not.

    Let’s keep voting for same old same old.

    jwinston jwinston 9:29 am 20 Oct 21

    As long as the trams run on time who needs a properly run health system…

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