The minister for health has acknowledged the “real and absolute” stresses healthcare workers have faced during COVID-19 with funding for a mental health support unit.
“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, not just in Australia but all around the world, our nurses, our doctors, our healthcare workers have been our frontline heroes,” said Greg Hunt, the minister for health, at a press conference today.
Healthcare workers all around the country are “heroes” and have “put themselves in harm’s way against an unseen but potentially deadly invader”, he said.
“The stresses they have been under have been real and absolute. Obviously there’s the stress and the risk of their own health, but above all else, the care and concern for their patients,” Mr Hunt said.
“We have to support the mental health (of our healthcare workers). We’ve seen around the world the stresses that coronavirus brings, and it’s real and it’s significant.”
The government will support with $3 million a new mental health support unit for frontline healthcare workers through the Black Dog Institute.
Mr Hunt commended healthcare workers for upgrading their skills to meet the needs of the pandemic, boosting the capabilities of the healthcare system during the crisis, but also beyond. He said 20,000 nurses have enrolled to upgrade intensive care unit skills. And 624,00 healthcare workers have completed infection control modules.
In addition, 40 million extra masks will be made available to hospitals, aged care workers, GPs, nurses, Indigeneous health workers, respiratory clinics, pharmacists, and allied health workers.
The government will also fund 3,000 nursing scholarships through the Australian College of Nursing.
Prof Kylie Ward CEO of the Australian College of Nursing, said during the pandemic she has seen the “essence” of nursing.
“When the rest of the world needs to stay home, we, with our clinician colleagues, will step up and fight for this great nation,” she said.
She thanked the government for their support of the 3,000 scholarships.
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, Professor Christina Mitchell, thanked the government for its support of $32 million for the National Centre for Healthy Ageing, a project between Monash University and Peninsula Health.
“This pandemic has shown us that we need new models of care for aged care,” Professor Mitchell said.
“The pandemic has shown us that the most vulnerable Australian citizens in aged care, either at home or in nursing homes, are very vulnerable.”
She said the National Centre for Healthy Ageing will be able to look into what is the best model of care for aged care, both for under normal situations and also in pandemic situations.
Mr Hunt said 700,000 people in Australia have now been tested for COVID-19, and Australia is world-class for the breadth of accuracy of its testing, according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
He said the uptake of the COVID-19 tracking app has reached five million, making it the fastest take up of an app in history.