Vaccine roll out to accelerate for Indigenous Australians, Victoria prepares for hospital surge

By Jackson Graham

Monday November 8, 2021

Martin Foley
Victorian health minister Martin Foley. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Australia’s heads of government have agreed to update each jurisdiction’s outbreak preparedness plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and have “noted” the risks involved with continuing to ease restrictions. 

The national cabinet agreed on Friday afternoon to return in December with updated outbreak management plans for a final agreement.

In parts of Western Australia and Queensland, less than 40% of the Indigenous populations have received at least one dose of a vaccine. In Tasmania, around 58% of the Indigenous population is fully vaccinated, compared to 76% in the general population. 

Lieutenant General John Frewen, leader of the national vaccine taskforce, told the national cabinet on Friday the government had plans to accelerate the rollout of vaccinations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across all jurisdictions. 

“With supplies available, there are significant opportunities available to be vaccinated across urban, rural, remote and very remote areas. Hesitancy continues to be a factor in low uptake, with all jurisdictions introducing measures to reduce hesitancy,” a national cabinet statement said. 

Meanwhile, WA will reopen its border when it reaches 90% vaccination levels among the population over 12 years old. 

Premier Mark McGowan said the target likely wouldn’t be reached until late January or early February. 

“We do not want to fall at the last hurdle,” McGowan said. “To rush it increases risk and increases harm.”

A specific date won’t be set until the state reaches the 80% threshold for vaccinations, expected in December, and once the date is set the reopening will occur regardless of whether the state reaches 90%.

But McGowan warned if the state didn’t reach the huddle, then further health restrictions would need to be introduced when the reopening occurred. 

In Victoria, the health system will receive a $307 million funding injection from the state government as it prepares for a rise in COVID-19 cases.

The money will help make the most of resources in hospitals, while $87 million will go towards caring for COVID and non-COVID patients at home in a bid to free up more than 100 public hospital beds in Melbourne.

Ambulance Victoria will receive more than $40 million to boost its capacity to manage an increased COVID caseload, while Aboriginal health organisations in regional and metropolitan areas will share in $12 million to increase clinical sessions, in-home care, and coordination with mainstream services. 

“Victorians have earnt their freedoms, but for our hospital staff and ambos the worst is yet to come,” health minister Martin Foley said. “This new funding will make the most of our hospital resources and boost community care options so that we can manage extra demand as case numbers rise.”


READ MORE:

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