SYDNEY, AAP – The bill for NSW’s COVID-19 management has reached $4 billion, with another $1.1 billion set aside in the 2021/22 budget to continue the state’s virus suppression and vaccine rollout efforts.
NSW Health received a total of $30.2 billion in Tuesday’s budget, made up of $27.1 billion in recurrent expenditure and $3.1 billion in capital spending.
The capital spending is allocated to the construction or refurbishment of 18 metropolitan and 28 regional hospitals and health facilities, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
Of the $1.1 billion set aside for COVID-19 pandemic management in 2021/22, more than $260 million will be allocated to the state’s role in Australia’s vaccine rollout.
This includes mass vaccination clinics at Sydney Olympic Park and soon in the NSW Hunter.
Pop-up clinics, testing and contact tracing efforts are set to cost $200 million in 2021/22, while $340 million has been put aside for the acquisition of personal protective equipment for frontline services and for warehousing PPE supplies.
Almost $150 million has also been allocated for medical treatment for those in the state’s hotel quarantine system.
Away from the pandemic, the government on Tuesday announced a $214 million boost to the NSW Ambulance budget, including more than $54 million over four years to improve the agency’s use of aircraft, potentially including jets.
Almost $34 million will also go into training paramedics to become specialist intensive care paramedics, with 80 per cent to be stationed in regional NSW.
It comes as the state’s paramedics on Tuesday take industrial action, responding only to incidents deemed life-threatening. They are seeking a 4.5 per cent pay rise, beyond the government’s newly-reinstated 2.5 per cent cap.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the unions would need to demonstrate efficiencies achieved by paramedics warranted a pay rise above the cap.
NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association secretary Brett Holmes told reporters on Tuesday that the government’s capital spending was pointless without mandated staff-to-patient ratios in hospitals.
The union wants a ratio of one nurse per three patients in emergency departments and one nurse per four patients in other wards.
“While we see more capital works will go into our health system, all that bricks and mortar does nothing to save lives, it’s actually the people inside the bricks and mortar, and we’re not seeing that issue addressed at all,” Mr Holmes said.
“We’re now at the point where hospitals are parking beds in corridors, outside wards … we’re corridor nursing in NSW and without sufficient staff to do so.”
The Australian Medical Association NSW also questioned whether there would be enough frontline health staff to improve patient outcomes.
“The cracks are showing in our hospitals and frankly, we’re concerned this won’t be enough to fix a system that is already struggling with demand,” AMA NSW President Dr Danielle McMullen said.
“Across the country, we’ve seen what happens when hospitals are under-resourced and patients can’t access care on time – it’s completely unacceptable for people to die waiting for care in ambulances or crowded emergency departments.”
The government has previously announced almost $83 million in funding to palliative care services and more than $8.5 million to Parkinson’s disease treatment.
Almost $70 million will also be allocated to bolster security at hospitals, including programs to “de-escalate tensions” in emergency departments and a pilot program involving police and mental health clinicians.
“Purpose designed hospital and health facilities drive improved health outcomes and experiences for patients, their families and our dedicated health staff,” Mr Hazzard said.