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NSW will commit $29.6 billion to a COVID-19 health and economic package over the next five years following unprecedented emergency health spending to weather the pandemic.
Treasury forecasters are working on an assumption that a vaccine will be available by mid-next year, with an estimated 20 per cent of people vaccinated by October.
NSW will spend a total of $1.6 billion on COVID-19 programs in 2020-2021 including $500 million to support COVID clinics, quarantine programs, extra pathology testing and contact tracing.Credit:Getty/Lisa Maree Williams
Social distancing restrictions are likely to be maintained until a vaccine is widely available and the majority of the population immunised.
Up to $1.6 billion of the COVID-19 response budget will be used for 2020-2021 health programs, including $500 million to support COVID clinics, quarantine programs, extra pathology testing and contact tracing.
More than $458 million will be used to fast track elective surgeries delayed by the pandemic and $20 million will accelerate COVID-specific research and clinical trials.
Some $385 million will be used to purchase additional personal protective equipment.
The mental health toll of 2020 was not lost on the budget’s architects, with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet describing it as one of the pandemic’s “most insidious hidden costs”.
More than $66 million will fund additional mental health clinicians and peer workers, expanding the Police, Ambulance and Clinical Early Response model, enhancing therapeutic activities in inpatient units, increasing capacity and responsiveness of the Mental Health line and expanding virtual mental health services
Overall health spending accounted for one third of the total NSW Budget, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
It included $66 million over three years beginning in 2021-22 will fund additional specialist mental health clinicians, almost $56 million over four years will go to end of life and palliative care, including 5000 additional non-clinical End of Life Support, specialist allied health professionals, education and training , and bereavement and psychosocial support services.
Almost $50 million in 2020-2021 will fund access to lifesaving cell and gene therapies, including CAR T-cell therapy for children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, adults with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, as well as gene therapy services for blinding eye disease and children with spinal muscular atrophy, and monoclonal antibody therapy for children with neuroblastoma.
A $17 million-pilot program will provide in-home care for pregnant women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness), and Tresillian and Karitane will receive more than $10 million over four years to extend virtual residential parenting services.
There is $10 million over four years to plan and undertake a NSW stroke ambulance pilot project geared towards rapid diagnosis and treatment of strokes.
The government’s hospital building boom over the past several years continues with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet saying the 29 upgraded hospitals and health facilities announced prior to the 2019 election would be underway before March 2023.
The Australian Medical Association NSW said it was concerned by the state government's continued emphasis on funding health infrastructure over current funding for staffing and resourcing.
"Hospitals and healthcare staff are struggling to meet patient demand," AMA NSW President Dr Danielle McMullen said.
“The recent concerns raised about resourcing and services at Blacktown Hospital highlight the importance of funding all hospitals appropriately," she said.
Dr McMullen was also concerned funding to fast track elective surgeries won’t move the needle enough to improve patient access.
“We can see that access is deteriorating and wait times are getting worse," she said. "Patients are waiting more than a year for elective surgery in some cases and we know these figures only tell half the story.
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