The federal government has rejected calls for more hospital funding in Queensland, arguing the Commonwealth has already doubled its financial support.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it’s the state’s responsibility to manage hospitals
- AMAQ says Queensland hospitals are chronically underfunded
- Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says it’s irresponsible to reopen borders without enough hospital capacity
It comes after both the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Premier said more funding was needed.
All the states’ and territories’ health ministers have written and signed a joint letter to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, calling for more funding.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has described it as one of the key elements needed before she considers reopening the state’s borders.
But Mr Hunt has dismissed the request.
“We have increased our funding … the option is there for [the Queensland Government] to match what we have done,” Mr Hunt told ABC News Breakfast.
He said he would be “very concerned if somebody was using a play for funding to separate families” — referencing Queensland’s borders.
Last Friday, Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland hospitals needed additional capacity, which required “funding from the federal government to support the growth [in COVID case numbers] that we will see.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told radio station 4BC the Commonwealth had “increased our funding to hospitals up in Queensland significantly, ever since we came to Government”.
“We’ve showered the states in money, whether it’s in JobKeeper and economic support payments.”
Mr Morrison said it was the state’s responsibility to manage their own hospitals.
“Public hospitals are the responsibility of the Queensland government — and what was it, Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders, I think the Premier said.
“If they need to increase funding there, from their own resources, they’re in the same position to borrow money as the federal government, if that’s what they believe they need to do.”
‘Hospitals are understaffed’
AMA Queensland president Chris Perry said the state’s hospitals had been chronically underfunded by both sides of politics for decades.
Dr Perry said it was a “system-wide” problem across Australia.
“The hospitals are too small, we can’t really have a surge,” he said.
Dr Perry said the issue could not be blamed on “any particular government or party” and argued it had been an issue for nearly four decades.
“We could do with some more funding,” he said.
“It’s hard to get the staff, hard to get the nurses back from vaccination clinics and testing clinics, so the hospitals are understaffed.”
Ms Palaszczuk has cited the readiness of the state’s hospital system as one of the factors in her decision on when to reopen the state’s borders.
But Mr Hunt argued states and territories had had “20 months to prepare if there are hospital ramping issues”.
Evidence for 80pc reopening ‘isn’t strong’: AMAQ
Vaccination rates are also of concern to the Premier, who has consistently said she would be relying on the Doherty Institute’s modelling.
Dr Perry said he believed the number of Queenslanders fully vaccinated should be higher than 80 per cent before allowing borders to reopen.
“The evidence that you should open at 80 per cent isn’t strong,” he said.
“I’m not sure we need to open up at 80 per cent, that was determined before the Delta strain and before there was widespread transmission in New South Wales and Victoria.”
Dr Perry said a figure between 80 and 90 per cent would be more suitable as a target for reopening borders.
Mr Morrison said Victoria would likely be the second state in Australia to open up to international travel and that he hoped to see that happen in Queensland too.
“I’d love it if they could fly into Brisbane for Christmas. But, really, that’s up to getting to those vaccination rates up to 80 per cent, and having a home quarantine model in place and working in Queensland.”