Coronavirus: Hospitals 'stretched' even before arrival of COVID-19 - doctors' union

As the health system faces increasing pressure with the spread of COVID-19, doctors say it will take more than a cash injection to prepare hospitals for a worsening situation. 

The Government on Tuesday announced a $12.1 billion economic package aimed at helping businesses feeling the economic effects of coronavirus.

Included in the funding was a huge boost for the health sector, with $500 million allocated for GPs, equipment, medicine and remote consultations.

But the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says the money won't help fix issues with staff shortages in the sector.

"The medical workforce pipeline, so-called, is something that we've been asking for coordinated approaches to for a long time now," the association's executive director Sarah Dalton told Newshub.

Even before the spread of COVID-19, hospitals were battling to keep up with demand, Dalton said.

"Business for usual for hospitals at the moment is very stretched so adding a pandemic on top of that makes things very tough for our members."

Health Minister David Clark on Tuesday said the Prime Minister had effectively given him an open cheque book to maintain Kiwis' wellbeing and health in the fight against coronavirus.

He also said that on top of the funding, the Government had already put significant resources into the sector in the previous two Budgets. 

The Government's urgent health spending plan allocates:

  • $40 million for contact tracing
  • $50 million for GPs
  • $20 million for virtual consultations
  • $20 million for Healthline
  • $32 million for emergency room equipment

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health announced confirmed that four more people had been infected with COVID-19, bringing the total number here to 12.

Two of new cases were in a Wellington family who recently returned from the United States. The third case was a Dunedin man who had recently travelled from Germany and the fourth was his son who caught it from him.

After the son was confirmed to have the virus, officials announced that Dunedin's Logan Park High School would be closing for 48 hours as it worked with education staff and health officials to assess the risk to other students.