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‘We didn’t have to dig mass graves’ – Minister’s stark defence of Covid response

A fiery budget estimates hearing has heard Health Minister Yvette D’Ath praise Queensland’s Covid response as world leading while under fire for emergency wait times and botched infrastructure planning.

 

Jul 29, 2022, updated Jul 29, 2022
Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'ath. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'ath. (AAP Image/Darren England)

D’Ath’s assessment comes as the state braces for more bad news on Covid, following yesterday’s 27 deaths and forecasts the third devastating Omicron wave will not peak for another five weeks.

Friday’s Covid count stands at 9420 new cases in the last 24 hours, with 17 deaths and 906 people in hospital.

The minister told MPs probing her department’s management of the health system during hearings in Brisbane this morning that the government made decisions that “kept people alive, kept people out of hospital”.

“We didn’t have to dig mass graves or set up temporary hospitals, we just got on and did what we had to do,” she said.

“We made the right decisions at the right time and the reality is we have led the world in saving lives.

“We haven’t had to say to people we are going to turn you away from a hospital because we don’t have a ventilator or not pick you up in an ambulance like we saw in the US and let you die at home, because we didn’t have the facilities.

“We didn’t have to make those decisions and I’m very proud of that.”

With pressure on the health system about to be tested with Covid numbers expected to surge further in weeks, Opposition Leader David Crisafulli and Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates attacked the government’s record on ambulance wait times and its “satellite hospital” plan.

Crisafulli told the hearing ambulance wait times, often referred to as ramping, were at 15 per cent when the Palaszczuk Government came to power in 2015, but had doubled to 30 per cent by January 2020, climbing to 42 per cent today.

Questions also probed the government’s last election commitment to build seven satellite facilities at a cost of $265 million by 2023 to ease pressure on major hospitals.

Friday’s hearing heard the budget had blown out to $280 million and the projects would not be finished on time.

Queensland Health acting director general Shaun Drummond attributed the delays and cost blowout to supply chain pressures and rises in costs that were not foreseen when plans for the projects were first designed.

Bates said the government was losing control of the health system.

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“If Queenslanders can’t trust the Palaszczuk Government to build these day clinics on time or on budget, how can they trust them to build real hospitals in a health crisis?”

“In the middle of a health crisis, Queenslanders deserve to know they will get the infrastructure they need so they can rely on the health system in their hour of need.”

As frontline health workers also come under increasing pressure, with about 2700 clinical staff currently on sick leave, according to D’Ath, the minister unveiled a plan to hire an extra 770 graduate nurses and midwives annually starting this year.

She said the new recruiting push would increase Queensland Health’s total annual nurse and midwifery graduate intake to 2500.

“We’re bringing an extra 1,540 nurse and midwife graduates online in the next two years and this will make a massive difference in our busy public hospitals,” she said.

“There will also be an additional 100 Clinical Facilitators and Nurse Educators to help guide the new nursing and midwife graduates.”

With an acute worldwide shortage of nurses in the millions, D’Ath said it was imperative for Queensland to “grow our own” nursing and midwifery staff in the face of pressures such as the pandemic and the state’s growing population, expected to be above seven million by 2040.

 

 

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