Private hospitals join the fight against COVID-19

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Australia’s private and public hospital systems have joined forces in an historic partnership to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Commonwealth would offer agreements to all 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals to ensure their viability in return for maintaining capacity during the COVID-19 response.

“Our government recognises the fundamental and heroic role of our medical and nursing staff, and this agreement further strengthens our health system,” Mr Hunt said.

“It gives us the capacity to respond to COVID-19 now, and the ability to preserve our hospital network for our nation’s health once we emerge from the crisis.”

The Federal Government said private hospitals would support the COVID-19 response through services including, but not limited to:

  • Hospital services for public patients – both positive and negative for COVID-19
  • Category 1 elective surgery
  • Utilisation of wards and theatres to expand ICU capacity
  • Accommodation for quarantine and isolation cases where necessary, and safety procedures and training are in place, including: cruise and flight COVID-19 passengers; quarantine of vulnerable members of the community; isolation of infected vulnerable COVID-19 patients.

Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff said the partnership would provide additional capacity.

“By guaranteeing the viability of Australia’s private hospitals, the minister has ensured Australians will have access to the full capacity of the private hospital system, including 35 percent of all intensive care beds, as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates,” Mr Roff said.

The partnership also ensures all private hospitals and day hospitals will be here and available to address the large surgical backlog that will need to be addressed when the pandemic is over –  a significant achievement, he said.

“This is about private hospitals stepping up to the plate and doing whatever is required to help the country get through this pandemic.

“We are pleased that private hospitals are able to be of assistance to work with governments at the frontline to fight against COVID-19.”

The overarching Commonwealth agreement required additional agreements with the States and Territories. However, many of these are still being negotiated – only Victoria had inked a deal when PH News went to print.

Its state COVID-19 partnership agreement represents around 8,500 beds and 28,000 staff, including hospitals owned and operated by Ramsay Health Care, Epworth HealthCare, Healthscope, St John of God Healthcare, St Vincent’s Health Australia, Cabrini Health and Healthe Care. Independent and day hospitals are set to be added to the arrangement in coming weeks.

Under the terms of the deal, the private sector will be reimbursed at cost.

Mr Roff, said it was important the private hospital sector could assist at this critical time.

“These facilities around Victoria will be urgently mobilised to assist the State government to manage the impact of COVID-19,” he said.

“While we face the unknown in terms of the extent of the impact of this virus, it is vital that all health providers work together, as one health system, to deliver the best care and treatment to patients within our communities.”

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