Private hospitals issued a warning they too are on the brink.
Private hospitals issued a warning they too are on the brink.

Australian hospitals to shut, 100,000 staff under threat

Australian private and Catholic hospitals are about to be closed and their staff stood down putting 100,000 workers out of a job right as the hospital system is about to buckle under the weight of coronavirus admissions.

The catastrophe is the result of a failure of state and federal governments to come up with a financial solution for the hospitals after they banned non-elective surgery at a national cabinet meeting earlier this week.

News Corp Australia reported Friday that 600 nurses had been stood down in New South Wales and more in Queensland when the third largest private hospital group Healthe Care was forced to cancel surgery.

On Saturday, all the nation's private hospitals issued a warning they too are on the brink as a result of the state and federal governments decision.

The nation will need the access to the nations 650 private hospitals as it tries to cope with demand from the COVID-19 virus.

The Australian Private Hospitals Association, Catholic Health Australia, and Day Hospitals Australia said the private sector is prepared to play their part in the fight against COVID-19 but cuts to elective surgery and a failure of state governments to step up to support the sector will have dire consequences for Australia's future hospital capacity.


Some hospitals are under threat with the potential of closure. Picture: Gordon McComiskie
Some hospitals are under threat with the potential of closure. Picture: Gordon McComiskie


"The hospitals are now faced with the very difficult decision to stand down staff and furlough services as a direct result, just when the entire health system is bracing itself for the surge in COVID-19 patients," Australian Private Hospitals Association chief Michael Roff said.

Hospitals are demanding governments guarantee their viability.

Between them, the private hospital system employs over 100,000 staff including 57,000 nurses across 650 hospital sites. There are well over 300 overnight acute private hospitals. More than a third of intensive care unit beds are in private hospitals, according to the Chief Medical Officer.

CHA Chief Executive Officer Pat Garcia said: "What should be happening at this time, in this breathing space we have before the full coronavirus onslaught, is all hospitals turn their attention to training up their existing clinical staff, and hiring additional staff - both clinical and non-clinical, to treat patients.



"We also acknowledge that winter, which is just around the corner, tests the hospital system at the best of times let alone when there is global pandemic. Hospitals cannot simply close down entire wards and ICUs, then turn them back on at the flick of a switch. If we need to close down wards and hospitals, they may not be available when we need them."

Michael Roff, CEO of the Australian Private Hospitals Association, said: "The states don't seem to understand the urgency of reaching a deal this weekend, if they don't do that, the beds they need in a few weeks' time may no longer be available."

"What we need is a national network of hospitals, co-ordinated between the States and the Commonwealth, and ensuring that our entire health system is at full capacity. Without a Commonwealth guarantee, private hospitals will start shutting their doors from early next week."


An isolation room for a patient with COVID-19..
An isolation room for a patient with COVID-19..


Jane Griffiths, CEO of Day Hospitals Australia said: "we have seen what's been happening in Spain and Italy, where patients don't have access to ventilators and ICU beds.

"The capacity of the private hospital system in Australia is enormous. We must act now to ensure capacity is available when we need it".

NSW Health said late yesterday they are in negotiations with private hospitals.

The private hospital sector will co-operate in whatever way it can to assist all governments with the development of the National coronavirus Partnership. A number of for-profit and non-profit private hospitals are currently in discussion with the states and territories to assist in the development of mechanisms designed to maintain the viability of the clinical capacity provided by the private hospital sector.

Nevertheless, the sector believes it is unlikely a nationally consistent position can be reached via individual negotiations with each of the states and territories in the time frame necessary to maintain viability and capacity of the private hospital system.






Australian governments are now turning to police-managed quarantine measures and the threat of fines and jail to battle coronavirus, as the death toll reaches 14.

All Australians returning home on cruise ships or international airports from midnight Sunday - and many before that - will live out their 14 days of quarantine in state-funded hotel rooms.

The doors will be guarded by state police, defence personnel or private security guards.

Two-thirds of Australia's more than 3580 cases have been linked to overseas travel, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on Saturday.

Travellers arriving from flight QF66 from Johannesberg wearing protective face masks at Sydney International Airport.
Travellers arriving from flight QF66 from Johannesberg wearing protective face masks at Sydney International Airport.

"We really need to get on top of the people that have returned ... from these other countries that had a much wider and worse epidemic of COVID-19 than we currently do here in Australia," he told reporters, pointing to cruise ships, the US, UK and Italy as key sources.

Dr Kelly said most locally acquired cases have had clear contact with a known case of the novel coronavirus, making quarantine compulsory for returning travellers was very important and supported by the "very best" medical evidence.


Federal and Queensland police greeting passengers of a Qantas flight coming in from Sydney to check they know the quarantine rules. Picture: Stewart McLean
Federal and Queensland police greeting passengers of a Qantas flight coming in from Sydney to check they know the quarantine rules. Picture: Stewart McLean





The Morrison government has announced almost $300 million in additional funding for the aviation sector, while it plans to put other businesses into hibernation to shield them from the economic hit caused by the coronavirus. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said $198 million is being provided to support regional airlines struggling through the crisis and an additional $100 million will also be available to smaller regional airlines should they need it. "The aviation industry is one of the hardest hit industries. It's especially hard in regional areas," Mr McCormack, the Nationals leader and transport minister told reporters in Wagga Wagga, NSW, on Saturday.

It brings the government's total commitment to the aviation sector to more than $1 billion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday flagged a hibernation plan for business, indicating it will be part of a third stimulus package to be announced in days. The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the only way for small businesses to survive the coming months is if they can effectively hit pause for now.

"For businesses to bounce back when the health crisis is over, they need a holiday from all the costs that they incur during this extremely difficult period," Ms Carnell said in a statement.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: AAP


The third support package - on top of the first two worth over $80 billion - is also expected to include commercial and residential rent assistance as the number of businesses closing their doors rise, putting tens of thousands of workers onto the dole queue and potentially into rental stress. "Our home is our castle. In the next few months, it will be our fortress," Labor's housing spokesman Jason Clare told the ABC.

"You can't stay at home if you get evicted. We need to do what the Poms have done, what New Zealand has done, and Tasmania. A freeze on evictions." Opposition spokeswoman for early education Amanda Rishworth also wants immediate support for childcare centres, which have seen enrolments plummet.





A rapid test has been approved in the United States which is intended to detect within minutes whether a person is infected with the coronavirus. Abbott Laboratories said the device is small and portable - about the size of a toaster - and can be set up outside hospitals, for instance. The test kit can determine within five minutes whether a sample is infected with Sars-CoV-2 and 13 minutes to definitively confirm if it is negative, the US health care company said.

Abbott announced late Friday that its equipment had received emergency authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration, and that it aims to manufacture 5 million kits a month.

Last weekend, the FDA approved a testing procedure that is supposed to provide results within 45 minutes. But those tests, from the manufacturer Cepheid, are to be used mainly in hospitals.

The country's ability to combat the coronavirus was hampered early on by a lack of testing capacity and then lengthy delays once the test had been performed. The United States now has more confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus, than any other country.

In Norway and Spain, the first patients were about to enrol in the WHO's so-called solidarity trial, which will compare the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations.

More than 45 countries are taking part in trial and the more that join, the faster we will have results".




Britain is battling the coronavirus with one hand tied behind its back after the country's chief medical officer self isolated with symptoms of the illness.

Professor Chris Whitty, who had been giving daily briefings on the country's response, has gone into lockdown after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive to the disease.

They are all working remotely and have insisted they are still in charge because they only have mild symptoms.

But there are plans in place for UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to take over should Mr Johnson become seriously ill.

Scientists have said Mr Johnson was taking too many risks before he came down with the illness.

UK PM Boris Johnson announces he has coronavirus. Picture: Supplied
UK PM Boris Johnson announces he has coronavirus. Picture: Supplied


Professor Susan Michie, director of University College London's centre for behaviour change, said: "Whilst the PM was telling people to stay at home and keep at least two metres apart from each other, the House of Commons (UK parliament) was open for business and face-to-face parliamentary activities were carrying on.

"Given the transmission routes of touching contaminated surfaces and breathing in virus-laden droplets, it should not come as a surprise to hear that the PM and Health Secretary have tested positive for coronavirus."

Conservative politician Michael Gove stood in for Mr Johnson, 55, and defended him at a press conference early on Saturday Australian time.

"The fact that the virus is no respecter of individuals, whoever they are, is one of the reasons why we do need to have strict social distancing measures so that we can reduce the rate of infection and reduce the pressure on the NHS," he said.

Mr Johnson's pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds has not been seen, while his controversial spin doctor Dominic Cummings was filmed running from No. 10 after Mr Johnson's diagnosis was revealed.




Mr Gove announced fast tracked testing for health workers.

They will be tested to find out if they have already had the virus and recovered, allowing them to get back to work.

Currently, anyone with symptoms must self isolate for 14 days, robbing the health system of key staff.

The UK has cleared 33,000 beds, or the equivalent of 50 hospitals to deal with the crisis.

And a new 4000-bed, 1km long hospital in a converted convention centre in London will open next week with the help of the British army.

Another two makeshift hospitals are being built in Birmingham and Manchester.

There were still 3000 beds available in London yesterday, which has been the centre of the UK outbreak, which has also claimed Prince Charles, although he only has mild symptoms.

More than 6,000 people were in hospital with the illness in the UK yesterday, with the death toll at 759.

Almost 600,000 people across the globe have been infected with coronavirus, with the United States alone having the highest number of cases at 97,028.

The United States has had 1,475, with 366 of those coming from New York City, which is the hardest hit area and may become the world's biggest cluster.


Makeshift hospital rooms stretch out along the floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.
Makeshift hospital rooms stretch out along the floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.



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US President Donald Trump has invoked emergency powers to make General Motors build ventilators for coronavirus patients after he accused the carmaker of "wasting time" during negotiations.

Trump, for the first time invoked the Defence Production Act, saying GM was not moving quickly enough, with the company announcing it would begin building ventilators in the coming weeks.


GM said in a statement in response that it has been working with ventilator firm Ventec Life Systems and GM suppliers "around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need" and said its commitment to Ventec's ventilators "has never wavered."

"They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed ventilators, 'very quickly'," Trump said on Twitter of GM and Ventec's effort.

"Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar."

Democrats have urged Trump to invoke the Defence Production Act to produce more medical supplies, but the president had been reluctant to do so until now. Democratic US Senator Ed Markey said, "About time. Now, tell us every day: which companies will be making more of this equipment, how much is being made, and where the equipment is going."


Trump said he expected the United States would make or obtain 100,000 additional ventilators within the next 100 days.

Following Trump's tweets, Ford said it was moving as fast as it could to gear up its ventilator manufacturing efforts and was in "active conversations" with the Trump administration seeking approvals.

Ford said it has "teams working flat-out with GE Healthcare to boost production of simplified ventilators."

The attack on GM and Ford coincided with rising tension between Trump and the Democratic governors of New York and Michigan, who have criticised the administration's response to the COVID-19 epidemic. On Thursday evening, Trump questioned whether New York state needed 30,000 ventilators to cope with rising numbers of coronavirus patients.

New York City Mayor Bill be Blasio on Friday said on Twitter that Tesla Inc had agreed to donate hundreds of ventilators to hospital intensive care units in New York City and the state of New York.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk in response said the electric carmaker was helping locate and deliver existing ventilators.

Trump also said countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy need ventilators and that if the excess volume is not needed, the United States can export them.



Originally published as Australian hospitals about to shut, 100,000 staff under threat

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