Coronavirus-free states have received a federal rocket about preparing hospitals for surging cases in the latest escalation of a health funding fight.
All states and territories are demanding crisis funding for strained hospitals ahead of restrictions easing around Australia in coming months.
But the Morrison government has rebuffed calls for an extra boost including splitting all healthcare costs 50-50 until mid-2023.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all states should be preparing for COVID surges as he praised plans in outbreak-affected Victoria, NSW and the ACT.
“They’re in the middle of it, they have the same funding arrangements as any other state and territory, but they’re dealing with it,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
“So, this isn’t about funding, this is about management of hospital systems. States must run their hospital systems well.”
Queensland’s Labor government has been a lightning rod for federal coalition criticism after linking reopening state borders to hospital funding.
Tasmania’s Liberal administration joined the fray, with Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff describing the federal government’s response to the states’ letter as less than satisfactory.
Victorian Labor Health Minister Martin Foley has accused his federal counterparts of blame-shifting politics and taking a regrettable approach.
The prime minister said vaccination was the single most important thing states could do to protect health care.
“The higher your vaccination rate is then the lesser the impact there’s going to be on your hospital system,” he said.
The federal government has agreed to a 50-50 split for coronavirus-related costs but insists its 45 per cent contribution to broader health funding should be retained.
NSW will accelerate its path out of lockdown for fully vaccinated people from Monday after becoming the first state to hit a 70 per cent immunisation rate for people 16 and over.
Mr Morrison said the move was a sign of hope for other jurisdictions, particularly locked-down Victoria and the ACT.
“We have passed the first major milestone for Australians to start getting their lives back,” he said.
The prime minister said other states would not have to endure similar outbreaks if vaccination rates could continue to rise.
“That’s the motive. That’s the incentive.”
Australia has fully vaccinated 59.3 per cent of its population aged 16 and above, while 81 per cent have had a first dose.
Queensland and Western Australia – the straggler states – have passed 50 per cent double-dose coverage.
Victoria reported 1683 new coronavirus cases and two deaths on Thursday, with the state government refusing to follow NSW in fast-tracking its lockdown exit.
The ACT – where there were 41 new cases – is also sticking to its timeline despite a whopping 96 per cent first-dose vaccination rate.
New NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced more freedoms would be granted from next week on the same day as 587 new infections and eight deaths were reported.
© AAP 2021