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

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The ACT Chief Minister has warned of a “crisis” in Canberra’s hospitals if the Commonwealth does not provide more funding. Chief Minister Andrew Barr painted a picture of the suffering of essential but non-emergency surgery as COVID continued to dominate the work of the ACT health service, including at Canberra Hospital. “I’m talking about a serious crisis,” Barr said. “There is an urgent need to improve this situation.” The Chief Minister said the money the ACT needs is in the “tens of millions – the hundreds of millions” and that he did not foresee a dramatic drop in the number of COVID cases in the near future, even as the vaccination rate approaches 90 percent. of the community. The issue of federal aid was raised during the national cabinet meeting with the prime minister on Friday, but without any resolution. Mr Barr was asked if Canberra’s health system could handle it if the Commonwealth didn’t help. He replied, “No. We need the money.” His concerns were consistent with those set out in a letter to federal health minister Greg Hunt signed by ACT health minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and her fellow health and territory ministers. They wrote that an increase in funding was needed due to the “continuous pressure” on their health systems, at what they claim is “the most critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic response for our hospital systems”. In the case of the ACT, Mr. Barr is also looking for help across the border. “NSW will also have to jump in,” he said. A quarter of patients in Canberra come from across the border, he said, so their treatment must be funded, at least in part, by their home state. There were three areas where Mr Barr claimed money was urgently needed: the hospital and the wider health service; managing COVID cases in the community; and psychiatric crisis clinics and assistance for people with disabilities. As if to emphasize the pressure at Canberra Hospital, ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said infections persisted there, including one new case that came too late to be included in Friday’s figures. Several issues were not addressed in the national cabinet, in part because NSW was not represented, as Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian had resigned earlier that day. As the pandemic continued, additional money, Mr Barr said, would help care for COVID patients in their own homes, freeing up hospital beds for the most critically ill. It would also make funds available for elective surgery, which is essential surgery for conditions that can be painful but not immediately life-threatening. They have been put on the back burner as resources, be it equipment, buildings or skilled personnel, have been working overtime against COVID. The government said 95 percent of eligible Canberrans should be vaccinated by the end of this month. But fully vaccinated people can still get COVID, although their chances are lower — and there’s much less chance of serious illness or death. Mr Barr said for every additional 1,000 people who are fully vaccinated, 100 fewer will need to go to hospital and 10 fewer will require intensive care. He spoke just after he published the latest disappointing numbers for new COVID cases in the ACT. He was clearly surprised when he was told that 52 cases had been recorded in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. on Friday, the same record number as the day before. “Initially my heart went, ‘Oh no. Not again!'” he said. He remained “reasonably confident” that restrictions in the ACT would ease somewhat on Oct. 15. “But we have to look at the coming days.” Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this COVID-19 outbreak in the ACT and the lockdown is free to everyone. However, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism. If you can, register here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, current news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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