The Palaszczuk Government is also looking to commandeer manufacturing plants in Queensland to convert them into factories for much-needed masks, protective equipment and potentially pathology consumables.
Nursing and medical students, and recent retirees, are already being contacted, to bolster the health workforce, while the Government is looking to free up public servants in other departments to provide support where possible.
The extraordinary measures, in an unprecedented crisis, come as federal, state and territory health officials today debate a cordon for aged care facilities and remote communities. The national Cabinet will meet tonight to discuss their recommendations, and also how, and when, to shut down the school system to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Amid economic turmoil, the Morrison Government is also preparing another stimulus package as the Reserve Bank finalises emergency measures in hope they can reduce the inevitable loss of businesses and jobs.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles told a sparse parliament this morning the COVID-19 tally had risen to 78 in the state, with 3406 people asked to self-isolate or quarantine since the crisis began.
While there has yet to be a Queensland case unable to be traced back to a recent traveller, or at least none yet publicised, Miles warned that sustained community transmission of the coronavirus “could be next month”.
But the minister reiterated that at least 19 fever clinics were open, laboratories were doing 1200 tests each day, and emergency department capacity had been tripled and intensive care capacity doubled, including through the purchase of additional ventilators.
“What the world is experiencing right now is unprecedented and so are our preparations,” Miles told parliament.
Those preparations may soon extend to a building site at Herston, between the Medical School and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, on the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital campus.
There, where a children’s hospital once stood, a new $340 million Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) is being completed as part of the Herston Quarter redevelopment. STARS had initial plans for 100 rehabilitation beds and special purpose rehabilitation support areas, 84 surgical and general inpatient beds, a surgical and endoscopic centre with seven operating theatres, and three endoscopy rooms and recovery spaces.
Senior government sources told InQueensland that, with a completion date later this year, STARS could provide much-needed bed capacity and was under consideration as a dedicated COVID-19 hospital. A Queensland Health spokeswoman would only say that STARS was not yet complete or being used as part of the virus response.
Across the state, other buildings adjacent to public hospitals are also being considered, while authorities will also make arrangements to have as many COVID-19 cases as possible managed at home, or elsewhere in the community.
The government is also in talks with small to medium enterprises, hoping to help resolve any supply chain issues, and examine local alternatives to the importation of medical equipment that is fast running out.
“The Queensland Government is working closely with SME’s across Queensland, including manufacturers and the biomedical sector to understand and act on any supply chain concerns, find alternatives, and to respond to any emerging issues as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick.
“Queensland has over 16,000 manufacturing businesses that contribute more than $20 billion each year to our economy.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told parliament Treasury modelling had suggested the pandemic could be a $2.5 billion blow to the state’s economy over three years.
But Treasurer and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad emphasised that any modelling beyond this month was unreliable, particularly when “states must be the spenders of last resort to keep the Australian economy afloat”.
As the Federal Government considers a follow-up to its $17 billion stimulus package, the state today announced a $500 million business loan facility, interest-free for the first 12 months, and broadened its payroll tax deferral policy.
Queensland is also lobbying for more federal road and infrastructure funding and a significant share of the proposed $1 billion community support fund, given the state’s overexposed tourism, hospitality and aquaculture sectors.Jump to next article