People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza this winter risk overburdening an already stretched hospital system and denying access to patients with severe medical conditions, the AMA warns.
AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid told ABC TV’s Afternoon Briefing that the public hospital system was not coping with demands placed on it by COVID-19 and a looming major flu season posed a further threat.
“Well, our health system is continuing to really struggle. Hospitals are still having very significant problems with access block due to the number of really sick people needing hospital beds and that is jamming up the whole system,” he said.
Dr Khorshid said people on long waiting lists for elective surgery could not afford to be pushed back further in the queue by people who had not been fully vaccinated against COVID and the flu.
“Any Australian who is not vaccinated against these preventable conditions is actually becoming part of the problem in terms of overburdening our health system. And it may mean that your loved one who really needs the system when they have a heart attack or they develop another serious medical problem, they may not be able to access the care they need because the system has just been so jammed up with people with both flu and COVID.”
Dr Khorshid welcomed Wednesday’s announcement from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to expand the eligibility for the winter booster rollout program for COVID-19 to people aged 16 to 64 with a range of medical conditions.
He said many Australians were afflicted with both flu and COVID and “there is a really strong message for everyone to go and get a flu vaccine”.
AMA Vice President Dr Chris Moy told Nine’s Today show the Albanese government must give priority to vaccinations to help “shore up” the hospital system so it can cope and not allow people to be denied vital care and “dying as we have already seen as ramping occurs”.
He said the new government’s priorities should focus on fixing the flawed public hospital funding model and introduce 50-50 funding to replace the current arrangement that provides for the Commonwealth giving 45 per cent and the States 55 per cent to our public hospitals.
Dr Moy said the Government should also implement the 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan to modernise and evolve Medicare to allow GPs to deliver “more care, more time and more health” for patients.