The federal government has triggered an agreement for private hospital staff to be made available to support public health systems.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt said the agreement would be activated as part of the government’s Omicron response plan as hospital numbers surged.
The private hospital agreement will offer up to 57,000 nurses and over 100,000 staff to Omicron-hit areas across the country, particularly where workforce challenges are placing pressure on hospitals.
“It is a workforce that is skilled, planned, appropriate and available,” Hunt said.
“The states and territories will, where necessary, work directly with the staff and with the hospitals themselves, whether it is the large private hospital networks or the smaller private hospitals. It will be up to states and territories to activate those.”
It comes as Victoria is set to activate a “code brown” setting for its public hospitals on Wednesday, allowing it to redeploy workers in different areas and make adjustments to healthcare operations.
Hunt said he had strong confidence in the capacity of the Victorian hospital system but acknowledged workforce challenges were stretching hospitals as with other workplaces around the country.
Chief health officer Paul Kelly said some states and territories were “either at or close to” the peak of Omicron waves while others were further behind.
“Peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic have occasion to them, they go up, they get to a peak, and then they go down and that is happening,” Kelly said.
“We also know … hospitalisation admissions, and ICU admissions and unfortunately deaths, they do lag a little bit behind cases.”
He said while Omicron was less severe, Australia had seen more than a million cases since the beginning of the year and a proportion of people would get severe disease.
“That is what has been seen in the whole of the rest of the world,” Kelly said.
The federal government also activated its national medical stockpile on Tuesday, giving states and territories greater access to personal protective equipment.
Aged care facilities are also set to receive 10 million units of PPE, including three million rapid antigen tests, two million N95 masks, two million surgical masks, and one million each of gowns, gloves and goggles.