The Victorian Government has committed $20 million to pay for hotel rooms for hospital workers and paramedics on the frontline of Victoria’s coronavirus response.
Under the new ‘Hotel for Heroes’ plan, staff will be given free accommodation if they have tested positive to COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who has the disease, in an attempt to ease the financial burden for frontline workers most at risk.
Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, said the program could potentially support up to 8,000 healthcare workers.
“We certainly hope that we don’t have a large number of healthcare workers diagnosed with COVID-19 but… we do know from overseas experience that they, sadly, are at an increased risk of contracting the virus,” Ms Mikakos said.
“And whilst we’ve gone and ordered an unprecedented amount of personal protective equipment to keep them safe, and we have prioritised them for testing, we need to do everything possible to ensure that they get our support.
“The least we can do is make sure they’ve got a free, safe place to go if they need it.”
The move to accommodate healthcare workers comes after 100 staff were forced to self-isolate at The Alfred Hospital following a COVID-19 outbreak, while staff at three other hospitals have also gone into quarantine after being exposed to coronavirus.
The Health Department has not been able to ascertain the source of the cluster linked to The Alfred, but Premier Daniel Andrews said in the majority of cases the health workers had contracted the virus from a traveller and not as a result of their work.
“The vast majority, over 80 per cent, of those health workers who have contracted the virus, have not got it from patients,” Mr Andrews stressed.
“But because we know that they’re still at greater risk because of their work… they shouldn’t have to fork out for a second place just to protect their families, loved ones or housemates.
“This plan will help slow the spread of the virus, protect our health system and save lives.”
The accommodation will be available to clinical and non-clinical staff, including paramedics, patient transport staff and cooks and cleaners, at public and private hospitals that directly engage with patients.
A range of hotels and apartment buildings in Melbourne and throughout regional Victoria are currently being assessed by the Department of Health and Human Services, to ensure they’re appropriately located and set up to house people who are isolating.