Andrews pins hospital woes on visa backlog
Clearing the "massive" backlog of skilled migrants waiting to enter Australia will be key to solving the crisis in regional health staffing, Victoria's premier says.
Daniel Andrews raised Australia's sluggish skilled migration as one of the factors ailing Victoria's health system after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He used Anthony Albanese's first national cabinet meeting as prime minister on June 17 to push for extra resources to process the "tens of thousands" of visa applicants, a request agreed to by the Commonwealth.
"At my urging, he's (Anthony Albanese) put ... extra staff to move through that backlog," Mr Andrews told a Rural Press Club lunch at Victoria's State Library on Tuesday.
"That'll be of such importance in health and I'd say nowhere more so in than in regional Victoria."
The state's health system has been plagued by shortages of doctors, nurses and other staff over the past two years, with regional areas among the hardest hit.
With COVID-19 and flu spreading widely this winter, 1547 staff across the state's health system and about 150 Ambulance Victoria paramedics were off work on Monday, Mr Andrews said.
The Victorian opposition is promising to build new hospitals in Albury-Wodonga, Mildura and Warragul to alleviate system pressure if it wins the November state election.
At Tuesday's event, Mr Andrews said he would not match the commitments, and questioned how people from Mildura could trust the Liberals and Nationals to build them a new hospital when the existing one was privatised by the Kennett government in 1998 before returning to public hands in 2020.
The state opposition on Tuesday added to its growing list of health-related promises, pledging $25 million for an upgrade of Sandringham Hospital in Melbourne's southeast.
"We're going to keep this hospital open," Opposition Leader Matthew Guy told reporters.
"We're going to reinvest in it. We're going to rebuild its maternity services. We're going to keep its ED open. We're going to fix up the wards. That's the right thing to do."
The hospital is in the seat of Sandringham, held by Liberal MP Brad Rowswell at the 2018 election by a margin of 0.65 per cent, or 508 votes.