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The fourth measure is probably the most significant of all, it’s the social isolation, the distancing measures that are so hard for Australian families. But altogether, these are the things which are allowing us to see these early, significant signs of a moderation in infection rates and a flattening of the curve. That’s half of the equation.
The other half is about our capacity. Already, we’ve seen in primary care over 1.25 million telehealth consultations as we transform Medicare. We now have 10 years’ worth of work in 10 days. Our doctors and our patients, our nurses and our practice managers, are doing an amazing job, with over 1.25 million telehealth consultations.
Going forwards, we are expanding our care in aged care facilities, looking to roll out the flu vaccinations across those aged care facilities. And then thirdly, in our hospitals. We’ve already announced the partnership with the private hospitals, which brings over 30,000 beds, which represents a third of the ICU beds in the country, and brings 105,000 staff, and in particular 57,000 nurses, into the battle against coronavirus and supporting our health system.
Today, I want to announce that there are three measures that we are taking to boost workforce capacity in our hospitals even further. Firstly, we will, with Medcast that are here today, support and fund over 20,000 free treatments and free online courses to take existing nurses, to lift them to ICU capability.
Those will start in a few short days and that’s an extremely important measure. What Monique and Ross were saying to me, nurses with whom I was speaking just before, they are seeing a desire and a willingness and a great sense of spirit from our nurses who want to lift their skills and to support the existing ICU nurses.
This is what’s going to allow us to support those ventilators, which themselves will go from 2,200 to 4,400 and then to 7,500, to give us the capacity to meet even the most difficult of needs that we may face.
At the same time, in addition to those 20,000 new places which we’ll be supporting – and if more is needed, more will be provided – we are also supporting nurses, registered nurses, to come back into the workforce and we have seen, two days ago, Alison McMillan, the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, announce that 1,000 nurses had already volunteered to come back. She’s just advised me that number has grown to 3,000 nurses and is growing each and every day.
So, our nurses are coming back in. Our existing nurses are seeking to increase their capacity. And on top of that, the Medical Board is working on mechanisms to help bring back doctors that have stepped out of the workforce, and we’ve seen a great interest in that.
And so, Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, and the Medical Board are working together. So, two things are happening. On the one hand, reducing the rate of infection, the first early signs of flattening the curve through the containment measures that we’re taking, and increasing capacity together.
These are extraordinary times during this global pandemic and obviously they require extraordinary measures. And we support the Commonwealth announcement today of the $4.1 million to 20,000 courses to upskill existing registered nurses in the workforce.
We hope that we don’t get to this measure, but we know that we need to be prepared. We’re seeing what’s happening to our international countries during this global pandemic and it’s very important that we increase the capacity of our intensive care beds and our intensive care workforce.
We also need to be reminded that nurses are doing an extraordinary job and we need the community support, and the best thing that everyone can do at this time is to stay home. We must do our very best at containing this virus.
We must also remember that those nurses, the 20,000 courses that are available, that this will be the individual registered nurse’s choice whether they uptake on this or not, and it will be available free to them. And we would seek support from their employer to do this during paid time.
So, we do welcome this measure by the Commonwealth. We are extraordinarily indebted to the work of what nurses and midwives and carers in aged care are doing at the moment, and we just encourage everyone to stay at home, to flatten the curve, and to reduce the burden on our healthcare system.