Australia's Private Hospitals To Add 34,000 Beds To Coronavirus Fight
The federal and state governments have vowed to guarantee the viability of all 657 private hospitals in Australia, freeing up more than 30,000 beds and one third of the country's intensive care capacity.
Under a new deal struck with the private sector on Tuesday, more than 105,000 full and part-time hospital staff, including 57,000 nurses and midwives will also keep their jobs and join the frontline fight against coronarvirus.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said this was a "very significant stride" in increasing the system's capacity -- with private hospitals currently holding one third of Australia's intensive care units.
"What this agreement does is it dramatically expands the capacity of the Australian hospitals system, at the same time as we are bringing down the numbers of what could have been the case, or as Australians know, the process of flattening the curve," Hunt said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Hunt said the agreement was also "fully flexible", meaning private hospitals may be involved in a number of different roles including exchanging staff and equipment, providing support services for patients coming from aged homes, or setting up day hospitals and flu clinics.
Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said the deal would also see the expansion of the country's ventilator capacity, which currently sits at 2,200 ventilated intensive beds.
With immediate expansion and re-purposing that capacity could be doubled, Coatsworth said.
"Our target capacity for ventilated intensive care beds in Australia currently stands at 7,500," he added.
"We are working around the clock to procure ventilators. I can tell you today that, locally, we will have 500 intensive care ventilators fabricated by ResMed, backed up by 5,000 non-invasive ventilators, with full delivery expected by the end of April."
Hunt said of the 4,359 cases of coronavirus in the country so far, 50 patients were in intensive care with 20 cases on ventilators.
The Health Minister said early signs showed that strict social distancing measures put in place were having an effect, with Australia making its first stages of progress into flattening the curve with rate of infection.
"We were at 25-30 percent growth just over a week ago, on a daily basis," he said,
"The latest advice I have from the National Incident Centre this morning is that the last three days have been approximately nine percent, on average."
Hunt said it was an achievement all Australia had contributed to, but there was still more to do.
"You have risen to the occasion," he said.
"To those Australians who are at home, to those Australians who are isolating or in quarantine, I want to say thank you. Your actions are making a difference and saving lives."
"This progress is early, it's significant, but now, with these additional rules around gatherings and movement, we are going the next step to help reduce again the level of infection, and to support our containment."
Coatsworth stressed it was "not the time to take the foot off the pedal."
"The restrictions that the minister and the Prime Minister have introduced on gatherings are absolutely essential to prevent the virus from making its only move, which is from one person to another," he said.