The hospital crisis threatens without more money: Barr | The Canberra Times

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The ACT chief minister has warned of a “crisis” at Canberra’s hospitals if the Commonwealth does not provide more money. Prime Minister Andrew Barr painted a picture of significant but non-emergency surgery that suffered as COVID continued to dominate the work of the ACT Health Service, including at Canberra Hospital. “I’m talking about a serious crisis,” Mr Barr said. “There is an urgent need to improve this situation.” The prime minister said the money needed for the ACT was “tens of millions – hundreds of millions” and that he did not foresee a dramatic drop in COVID cases in the near future, even though the vaccination rate is approaching 90 percent of the community . The issue of federal support was raised at the national cabinet meeting with the prime minister on Friday, but without any resolution. Barr was asked if the Canberra health system could survive if the Commonwealth did not help. He replied, “No. We need the money.” His concerns were repeated by those described in a letter to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, signed by ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and her fellow states and health ministers. They wrote that there was a need for a boost in funding due to the “tireless strain” on their healthcare systems, in what they claim will be “the most critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic for our hospital systems”. In the case of ACT, Barr also looks over the border for help. “NSW will also have to chip in,” he said. A quarter of Canberra’s patients are across the border, he said, so their treatment must be funded, at least in part, by their home country. There were three areas where Mr Barr argued that there was an urgent need for money: the hospital and a broader healthcare system; handling COVID cases in the community; and mental health crisis clinics and assistance for people with disabilities. As if to underscore the pressure at Canberra Hospital, ACT health chief Dr. Kerryn Coleman said infections continued there, including a new case that came too late to be included in the figures for Friday. Several issues were not addressed in the national cabinet, partly because NSW was not represented and Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian had resigned earlier in the day. As the pandemic lingered, extra money would help care for COVID patients in their own homes, according to Mr Barr, and it would free up hospital beds for the most seriously ill. It would also make resources available for elective surgery, the essential surgeries for conditions that can be painful but not immediately life-threatening. They have been put on the backburner, while resources, whether it be equipment, buildings or skilled staff, have worked overtime against COVID. The government said that by the end of this month, 95 percent of eligible Canberrans should be vaccinated. However, fully vaccinated people can still be infected with COVID, even if their chances are lower – and there is a much lower risk of serious illness or death. Barr said that for every additional 1,000 people who are fully vaccinated, there are 100 fewer who need to be hospitalized and 10 fewer who need intensive care. He spoke just after publishing the latest disappointing figures for new COVID cases in ACT. He was clearly surprised when he was told that 52 cases had been registered in the 24 hours to 20.00 on Friday, the same record number as the day before. “At first my heart went, ‘Oh no. Not again!'” He said. He remained “reasonably confident” that the restrictions in the ACT would ease slightly on 15 October. “But we have to look at the next few days.” Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in ACT and lockdown is free for all to access. However, we rely on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you can, you can subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our regular newsletter. Our journalists work hard to deliver local, up-to-date news to the community. Here’s how to continue accessing our trusted content:


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