The federal government is under renewed pressure to boost health funding to cope with pressure from Australians who postponed medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists his government will put the nation’s economic recovery first in the lead-up to an election expected in 2022.
“This is the big challenge facing Australia,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
“We have one of the strongest, if not the strongest, economy of advanced economies in the world coming through the pandemic.”
But Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton and health economist Stephen Duckett have taken aim at the lack of recovery planning between state, territory and federal leaders.
“It as if we could all soon heave a sigh of relief and simply move on,” their editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia said.
The pair have urged the government to share with states and territories anticipated increased health care costs from patients who put off getting help for issues other than the virus during the past 18 months.
Under existing arrangements the costs will be borne by the states because of a federal funding cap, they said.
Professor Sutton and Dr Duckett also warned of impending burnout-induced healthcare staff shortages and long-term mental health consequences.
“In 2022, public health will need to concern itself with the emerging burden of disease and avoidable harms linked with the profound effects of the COVID‐19 pandemic over the past two years,” they said.
“The real lesson of the pandemic, however, is the huge impact of inequality and structural disadvantage on its course and outcomes. ”
Australia was urged not to be complacent about living with COVID-19 simply because it weathered the pandemic relatively well.
“We must be vigilant, to ensure that our first‐rate public health capacity is not run down as part of public sector belt tightening,” the article said.
Victoria recorded 860 new infections on Monday and five more deaths, while there were 165 cases and another fatality in NSW.
Nationally, 83 per cent of people aged 16 and older are double-dosed.
Queensland’s full vaccination rate has cracked 70 per cent as it ramps up its home quarantine program for domestic travellers.
People who are fully vaccinated can quarantine for a fortnight at home as long as their residence meets certain requirements and they return a negative test beforehand.
“A lot of people will wait until we get to the 80 per cent double dose, but this criteria is in place for those who want to return home earlier,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.
She expects the state could hit its 80 per cent double-dose target, which will trigger the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated domestic travellers, slightly earlier than expected.
“It could come a week early, but I don’t want to get my hopes up,” Ms Palaszczuk said of the December 17 target.