National Research Centre to support Australians with Eating Disorders

The Morrison Government is investing $13 million to establish a world-leading National Eating Disorder Centre, where Australia’s best researchers will collaborate to transform how eating disorders are diagnosed and treated.

The University of Sydney’s InsideOut Institute, Orygen, Black Dog Institute, and seven other universities and institutes will lead the new Research Centre, which will support research into:

  • transforming eating disorder clinical practice
  • informing future policy
  • developing the capacity and capability of the research workforce
  • supporting the delivery of evidence-based treatment options, and
  • coordinating research activities across the country.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said eating disorders were complex and affected people of all ages across the country.

“At any one time, there are more than a million Australians with an eating disorder, and we want to ensure they can get easy access to the best possible treatment,” Minister Hunt said.

“There is evidence that early intervention into eating disorders can reduce the duration of the illness and improve outcomes for patients. It is possible for many people to make a full recovery if they get the right treatment at the right time.

“Eating disorders are a priority for the Morrison Government and the new research centre will find innovative ways to care for patients, improve prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery rates.”

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said the centre was the result of Australia’s first Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Strategy 2021-31.

“Globally, eating disorders have tragically high mortality rates,” Assistant Minister Coleman said.

“By working with researchers, clinicians, consumers and carers – locally and internationally – the new research centre will help to translate research into practice, build the capacity and capability of the research workforce, and ultimately improve the quality of life for all Australians with eating disorders, their families, supporters and carers.”

Funding for a National Eating Disorder Research Centre is part of $26.9 million provided for eating disorder research and support as part of the Morrison Government’s 2021-22 Budget.

The Morrison Government has made mental health a national priority, and since 2018 has delivered unprecedented support for eating disorder research, support and treatment. This includes historic investments such as $110.7 million to provide up to 40 Medicare-subsidised psychological and 20 dietetic therapy sessions, $63 million for establishment of a national network of residential eating disorders treatment centres, $5 million for research through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), and $13.4 million for the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC).

Through the $2.3 billion National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan in the 2021-22 Budget, the Morrison Government continues to transform the mental health system to ensure that all Australians can access, high-quality, person-centred care when and where it is needed.

If you or anyone you know is concerned about eating disorder or body image issues, you can contact the Butterfly Foundation’s national eating disorders helpline, ED Hope, on 1800 33 4673 or through www.butterfly.org.au.

Anyone experiencing distress can also seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health (www.headtohealth.gov.au).

Australians with severe dermatitis to benefit from PBS listing

From 1 February 2022, Australians with severe atopic dermatitis will have access to a new treatment listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Australians aged 12 years or older living with this form of dermatitis will benefit from the extended listing of Rinvoq® (upadacitinib) on the PBS.

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition affecting the skin, causing redness, itching and sometimes infections.

Uncontrolled eczema has a significant impact on the day to day life of patients and their families, including sleep deprivation, an increased risk of skin infection, depression and anxiety.

Rinvoq® helps to improve the condition of the skin, reducing itching and flares by blocking enzymes which create signals in the body’s immune system resulting in inflammation.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said this listing will benefit around 3,600 Australians a year.

“Without this subsidy, patients might pay more than $27,000 per year treatment, instead they’ll pay $42.50 or as little as $6.80 per script,” Minister Hunt said.

“Since 2013, the Coalition Government had approved more than 2,800 new or amended listings on the PBS. This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $14 billion.

“Our Government’s commitment to ensuring Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.”

The listing of Rinvoq® on the PBS has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Changes to pre-departure testing for international arrivals to Australia

The Australian Government has reviewed the requirements for pre-departure testing for international arrivals to Australia and will make changes to provide more flexibility for people to demonstrate they have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2015 the Government will change the requirements for a pre-departure test of any nucleic acid amplification test (such as PCR tests) within three days, to allow the flexibility for passengers to instead show a negative test result through a rapid antigen test (RAT) within 24 hours of the flight departure time.

These changes will come into effect from 1.00am Sunday 23 January 2022.

While PCR tests remain the gold standard test, a RAT within 24 hours is an acceptable indicator of whether a traveller has COVID-19 before flying to Australia.

This is consistent with moves within Australia to accept RATs for diagnostic purposes.

In addition to this, the time between receiving a positive test result and being able to be cleared for travel to Australia will be reduced from 14 to seven days. This will reduce wait times for travellers who contract COVID-19 overseas to return to Australia in line with the new domestic isolation requirements.

The pre-departure testing requirements will continue to be reviewed regularly, taking into account the domestic and international epidemiology.

Travellers to Australia must still wear a mask during their flight and follow the directions of state and territory governments regarding quarantine and on-arrival testing.

The Government will continue to take measures to protect Australia by preventing and controlling the entry, emergence, establishment and spread of COVID-19.

Building a New Tasmanian Home for the Royal Flying Doctors

A Federal Labor Government will commit $15 million to build a new Tasmanian home for the Royal Flying Doctor Service at Launceston Airport.

The current site has served the community well for 20 years, but it is clear that it is no longer adequate to provide the services that Tasmanians deserve.

The RFDS’s current home is unable to support either rotary aircraft or up to date clinical activities, while the realities of the pandemic and capacity constraints have forced RFDS and Ambulance Tasmania personnel to spread themselves across three separate buildings.

It’s clear that RFDS needs a new Tasmanian home, and that is exactly what a Labor Government will deliver.

This redevelopment will include facilities for world-class clinical care, as well as adequate capacity for rotary and fixed wing aircrafts, ground vehicle transfers and the space needed to cater for surge workers when required.

By securing the future of the RFDS at Launceston Airport, this project will ensure that this essential service retains its central location and accessibility to Tasmanians in all corners of the state.

No matter where they live, Tasmanians will continue to be in reach of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Thousands of flights are undertaken by RFDS Tasmania each year providing crucial aero-medical and patient transfer.

RFDS Tasmania also plays a critical role in tackling chronic disease and reducing the rate of hospital admissions across the state. It delivers a range of primary health care services including dental, physical and mental health programs.

This is just the first of a number of commitments a Labor Government will make to secure the health of all Tasmanians, delivering a better future to locals across the state.

National Cabinet Statement

National Cabinet met today to discuss our response to COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, approaches to test, trace isolate and quarantine including the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) and the vaccine rollout and booster programme.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, provided an update on the spread of the Omicron variant. Omicron case numbers continue to increase in Australia and globally. Omicron continues to show greater infectivity than the Delta variant, but with much less severity in terms of hospitalisations, ICU and ventilated patients.

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 1,514,560 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 2,841 people have died.

Globally there have been over 333.4 million cases and sadly over 5.5 million deaths, with 3,281,678 new cases and 9,162 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world.

Lieutenant General John Frewen, DSC, AM, Coordinator General of the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce (Operation COVID Shield) provided a detailed briefing on the major expansion in Australia’s vaccination rollout.

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out continues to expand. To date 47 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including 332,808 doses in the previous 24 hours.

In the previous 7 days, more than 1.9 million vaccines have been administered in Australia. More than 95.2 per cent of the Australian population aged 16 years and over have now had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including over 99 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 99 per cent of over 70 year olds.

More than 92.7 per cent of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated including more than 97.5 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 99 per cent of Australians over 70 years of age.

Over 5.7 million booster doses have been administered to over 28 per cent of Australians. More than 53 per cent of Australians aged 70 years of age and over have had a booster in the last 10 weeks since the booster program commenced.

More than 21 per cent of 5-11 year olds have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the first 11 days of the children vaccination program.

National Cabinet will meet again on Thursday 27 January 2022.

COVID-19 Treatments and Vaccinations

National Cabinet received an update from Adjunct Professor John Skerritt of the Therapeutic Goods Administration on approvals for the first oral treatments for COVID-19 in Australia, Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir).

Lagevrio and Paxlovid are oral anti-viral treatments that have been found to be effective in treating people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who have a high risk of progressing to severe disease, reducing admissions to hospital and ICU and potential death. The Commonwealth Government has secured access to 300,000 treatment courses of Lagevrio® and 500,000 courses of Paxlovid® for supply throughout the course of 2022, with the first deliveries of both medicines anticipated over the coming weeks. These oral antiviral treatments need a prescription and are taken every 12 hours for five days. They are designed to interfere with the virus’ ability to multiply.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has further granted provisional approval of Novavax for its COVID-19 vaccine, NUVAXOVID for primary course vaccinations. This is the first protein COVID-19 vaccine to receive regulatory approval in Australia. The Commonwealth Government has ordered 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine which will be available as a primary course vaccine, with supplies available in coming weeks following deliveries and further batch testing.

AHPPC Updated Advice on Use of Rapid Antigen Tests

National Cabinet agreed to the new AHPPC guidance on Rapid Antigen Testing for Current High Community Prevalence Environment. Rapid antigen tests are an important diagnostic tool to manage impacts on health system capacity, public health and safety, protect vulnerable Australians and minimise disruptions to daily life.

Rapid Antigen Tests are to be used for three purposes:

  • As a diagnostic test as an alternative to PCR for those at high risk of having COVID-19
  • To manage outbreaks
  • To help early indication of cases in high risk settings

Use of RATs to detect cases in high risk settings is recommended in residential aged and disability care settings where there is high community prevalence, healthcare settings managing very high risk patients (e.g. transplant ward, hematology unit, oncology ward, renal dialysis units) and other critical services (e.g. other parts of health care and emergency services). Rapid Antigen Tests are not routinely recommended to detect cases early for other industries, businesses and organisations.

Essential Workforce

National Cabinet considered the trucking industry’s proposals to support the freight and logistics effort including reducing the age of eligibility to apply for a forklift license, recognition of New Zealand truck driver licenses in Australia and having experience or competency based licencing for heavy vehicle driver licenses.

New Zealand and Australian driver license matters have been referred to the National Cabinet Infrastructure and Transport Reform Committee for consideration and National Cabinet agreed not to progress the industry’s proposed forklift license changes.

National Back to School Framework

State and Territory Governments will release their operational plans for schools. These plans will be in line with the National Framework for Managing COVID-19 in Schools and Early Childhood Education and Care that were agreed and released last week.

As part of these operational plans, and based on the needs of each particular jurisdiction, State and Territory Governments will determine what level of Rapid Antigen Testing is advised in school and early childhood settings. The Commonwealth will support these arrangements through 50:50 cost sharing under the COVID-19 National Partnership Agreement.

While surveillance testing has not been recommended by AHPPC, states and territories will make their own decisions on the best approach for their circumstances. Where States and Territories elect to do surveillance testing, the Commonwealth will negotiate bilateral agreements on payments.

All of this is consistent with our shared objective to get students back to school for Term 1, to keep schools open and to ensure access for vulnerable children and the children of essential workers.

COVID-19 Related Requests for ADF Support

National Cabinet noted the revised Protocol for Defence Assistance to the Civil Community in COVID-19 (DACC) management support that the Commonwealth will apply when assessing requests for ADF support to the COVID-19 outbreak. These conditions and thresholds have been recalibrated following the changing operating environment arising from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Two anti-viral COVID-19 treatments approved

The Australian Government welcomes the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) provisional approval of the first oral treatments for COVID-19 in Australia, Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir).

Lagevrio and Paxlovid are oral anti-viral treatments that have been found to be effective in treating people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who have a high risk of progressing to severe disease, reducing admissions to hospital and ICU and potential death.

The Government has secured access to 300,000 treatment courses of Merck Sharp & Dohme’s (MSD) Lagevrio® and 500,000 courses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid® for supply throughout the course of 2022, with the first deliveries of both medicines anticipated over the coming weeks.

These oral antiviral treatments need a prescription and are taken every 12 hours for five days. They are designed to interfere with the virus’ ability to multiply.

The clinical trials of these treatments show they reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death in patients with COVID-19 who are at high risk of progressing to severe disease.

Lagevrio and Paxlovid will supplement the existing National Medical Stockpile supplies of Xevudy (sotrovimab) and Veklury (remdesivir) and future supplies of Evusheld (tixagevimab with cilgavimab), the later pending a final TGA decision on registration.

Xevudy is an intravenous monoclonal antibody that can also be used to treat people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who have a high risk of progressing to severe disease. It has proven effective against the omicron variant with additional supply also secured for delivery over the coming months.

Veklury is being used for the clinical care of people with moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms who have been admitted to hospital but do not require ventilation assistance in line with the recommendations of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce.

As with other TGA approved COVID-19 treatments not everyone who contracts COVID-19 will require access to Lagevrio and Paxlovid and these treatments will be of most benefit for people most at risk of severe disease and through the oversight from a healthcare professional.

We are working to target access to those most vulnerable including the elderly and those in aged care through the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) with the view to transition to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) arrangements as supply continues to grow.

By law medicines can only be listed on the PBS following a positive recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).

Whilst vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19 our Government continues work to ensure that Australians have early access to safe and effective treatments as they are approved for use by the medical experts. These agreements reinforce our strong response to managing COVID-19 outbreaks and ensures that Australia benefits from new pharmaceutical technologies.

As with all COVID-19 treatments, both of these medications have been rigorously assessed by the TGA for safety, quality and effectiveness before being provisionally registered for use in Australia.

The TGA is treating all COVID-19 treatment applications with the greatest priority as part of the Department of Health’s response to the pandemic.

New $10m training centre for health students in Central Queensland

Locals interested in a health care career will soon be able to study in the Central Highlands of Queensland, with the Federal Coalition Government today announcing a University Department of Rural Health (UDRH) will be established in Emerald.

The Nationals in Government are providing $10 million to James Cook University (JCU) to establish the UDRH, which will offer education and training for allied health students to train locally.

The new facility will also improve the distribution of health workforce in the region, and provide more access to healthcare professionals for local patients.

During a visit to Emerald today, Federal Regional Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie and Member for Flynn, Ken O’Dowd said the new centre would be a boon for regional Queensland.

“The establishment of the Central Queensland Centre for Rural and Remote Health (CQCRRH) in Emerald will build on their success with educating students in regional, rural and remote locations and give students access to tertiary education and training locally,” Mr O’Dowd said.

“We know people who study and have a positive training experience in the bush are more likely to stay and practice in the bush.

“By establishing these outreach university departments, the Liberal and Nationals Government is demonstrating its commitment to the health of every Australian, regardless of where they live.”

Minister Gillespie, a former regional doctor for more than 30 years, said this new campus was the 17th UDRH in regional Australia but only the 3rd in Queensland.

“Our Government is acutely aware of the need to boost regional workforce and training opportunities, which is why we focus on establishing these UDRHs where there are gaps in what health care training people can access locally, Dr Gillespie said.

CQCRRH will firstly establish training sites in Emerald and service-learning outreach in the surrounding Gemfields regions, strongly focused on primary care.

“Initial courses planned for rollout include nursing, first and final years of pharmacy, occupational therapy, entry to practice psychology, and a Diploma of Education,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Dr Gillespie said the UDRH will be locally led, and expansion beyond Emerald to Biloela is already planned for 2023.

Mr O’Dowd said it was pleasing that JCU will purchase housing in Emerald to provide accommodation facilities for allied health, nursing, midwifery, and dental students from other areas to undertake clinical placements locally.

Dr Gillespie said the $10 million was provided under the Coalition Government’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program.

“Right across regional Australia, the RHMT program offers health students the opportunity to train in rural and remote communities via a network of training facilities,” he said.

The new UDRH will also undertake targeted enrolment, mentoring and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; build Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership roles in RHMT activities and will contribute to improved local health outcomes of rural and remote communities, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Greens Call on McGowan to prioritise prevention, financial and health supports before opening up.

The Greens (WA) are committed to ensuring everyone is able to access health supports when they need it.

The Greens (WA) are calling on the WA State Government to commit to providing people with more support before opening up Western Australia to interstate and international visitors.

The 11 point plan, announced by Australian Greens Health Spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John and Greens (WA) Health Spokesperson Brad Pettitt MLC, will ensure everyone is able to access prevention measures, and the financial and health supports they need to recover from COVID-19.

The plan includes:

  1. Rapid antigen tests (RATs) and N95 masks are readily available to households including through an online ordering system, with delivery to home, or collection from GP or pharmacy.
  2. State Government to urgently provide First Nations communities with the resources and funding needed to address issues around vaccine supply, distribution, hesitancy and education. All solutions must be led by communities and elders, not the police or the Australian Defence Force.
  3. Increased community health campaign to ensure as many people as possible are able to receive their vaccinations, including First Nations people, children, and disabled people.
  4. State Government to ensure all households receive clear communication on how to prepare for and look after yourself and others when diagnosed with COVID-19.
  5. State Government to provide payments to support people to remain in isolation while awaiting the result of a PCR test, and after testing positive to a PCR test or RAT ($320 while awaiting the result, and $320 after testing positive).
  6. State Government to provide lost income support to individuals who do not have access to leave arrangements while recovering from COVID-19 ($500 per 7 days required to isolate) and release details of WA’s small business assistance grant.
  7. State Government to provide payments to individuals to support them if they are required to quarantine out-of-home.
  8. Grants to businesses to improve ventilation (including installing fans and carbon dioxide monitors) and installation of HEPA filters.
  9. WA Health to provide support for those who experience long COVID, including the establishment of specialist post-COVID clinics to bring together a range of healthcare professionals, and increased provision of allied health services.
  10. WA Health to continue to list exposure sites and have a RAT reporting system, including positive cases confirmed by RAT in daily numbers.
  11. Funding to ensure that COVID positive asymptomatic carers, including in aged-care and disability care, are not required to care for non-COVID positive people (can care for COVID positive people).

Senator Jordon Steele-John said:

“The Greens are committed to equitable access to healthcare. The WA State Government must be committed to ensuring everyone is able to access masks and rapid antigen tests. We cannot have the situation that has been unfolding over east, where only the rich are able to access basic preventative health supports.”

“Our Greens plan would give everyone a payment of $320 if they test positive to COVID-19. This is an acknowledgment of the increased costs that come with a positive diagnosis, including delivery costs of food and medicines.”

“We are also calling on the WA Government to commit to keeping up contract tracing systems, and ensuring that asymptomatic COVID positive carers will not be permitted to care for people who do not have COVID-19. This practice has put many disabled people, older people and immunocompromised people at risk over east.” 

Brad Pettitt MLC said:

“This plan is an opportunity to use WA’s record $5.6 billion budget surplus to invest in our community and ensure everyone has access to the supports they need to stay safe from COVID-19.

“Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals have said repeatedly that WA hospitals are already overwhelmed. We must provide support for people to be able to isolate and best manage COVID-19 from home where possible.

“What’s happening over east right now could very likely play out in WA. Medical experts are telling us that our health system is not equipped to deal with the wave of COVID-19 that is inevitably coming.

“We are now less than three weeks away from WA opening its borders. If WA is unable to address the massive RAT shortages, get more kids aged 5 to 11 vaccinated, and put COVID financial supports in place before 5th February, the border opening date should be delayed.”

Billionaires doubling fortunes shows need for Greens’ billionaires tax

Greens Leader, Adam Bandt, says revelations in the Oxfam report that Australian billionaires have doubled their already obscene fortunes gives strength to the Greens’ proposal for a 6% annual tax on billionaires’ wealth.

Over the course of the pandemic, while people endured lockdowns and hardship, billionaires doubled their wealth to $255 billion, equivalent to the wealth of 7.7 million Australians, held by just 47 people.

Greens leader, Adam Bandt MP said:

“The Greens are the only party taking progressive tax reform to this election.

“While everyone else was doing it tough during the pandemic, Australia’s billionaires made out like bandits and it’s time they paid tax on their obscene wealth.

“The numbers are clear: we need a billionaires tax and a corporate super-profits tax.

“If billionaire corporations paid their fair share of tax, we could fix the housing crisis and get free dental and mental health into Medicare.

“In balance of power after this election, the Greens will kick the Liberals out and push the next government to introduce a billionaires tax.”

Safety at work critical for living with Omicron

Greens Leader, Adam Bandt, says workers deserve to be safe at work, backing ACTU calls to ensure worker safety.

Bandt, a former industrial relations lawyer, rejected the claim by some employers that the demands were a threat to business, saying that ensuring workers’ safety is the best way to keep businesses going as the virus continues to spread.

Greens leader, Adam Bandt MP said:

“If a workplace is unsafe, workers have the right to stop work.

“Governments should have thought more about worker safety before letting Omicron rip.

“It’s workers who keep our economy and supply chains going and it is vital that all workers are protected.

“Free RAT tests, upgraded masks and improved ventilation should be a priority in workplaces.

“Keeping workers safe is key to securing supply chains and supporting businesses through Omicron.”