SUBJECTS: Emergency Ward at Rouse Hill Needed; Hospitals at Capacity; More Vaccines for Western Sydney Authorised Workers; LGAs of Concern.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live now is the Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, as she always does on a Monday. Michelle, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So just on that story there, you've got that deadline that's been extended for workers to get those jabs out of those areas of concern. Are you pleased with that outcome?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I wish it was something that had happened sooner, quite frankly. And I have been inundated, as I know many of my colleagues in Western Sydney have, with people who fall within those categories who needed to be vaccinated and simply couldn't get appointments by that first deadline. So it's pleasing to see that that's been extended, that more supply is coming. One only wishes this had have happened sooner because it's caused a lot of anxiety. We want to get to that target as soon as possible.

STEFANOVIC: Speaking of anxiety, the hospital hospitalisation rates, are causing some alarm with people at the moment, because it's basically been doubled from five and a half per cent to 11 per cent in recent days. How concerned are you about those weeks ahead, where the New South Wales Premier expects the peaks to emerge, particularly in hospitals in the western parts of Sydney?

ROWLAND: Well, this is something that I've been concerned about for weeks, and which the community's been concerned about as well. And let's face it - unfortunately, hospitals in Western Sydney have fallen behind over many years from our Eastern Suburbs counterparts. We have to try a lot harder to make sure that we have that necessary workforce. And on a number of key categories, Western Sydney hospitals fall behind. So it is very concerning that we're now in this situation where I think there's been a 60% increase in COVID infection hospitalisations in like 10 days. And we know that even at the best of times, our hospitals are under pressure, and deeply concerned about what this means for the future. Can I just say, everyone is so grateful for our frontline workers for what they are doing in our health system. We wouldn't be functioning without you. But it is imperative that a plan is put in place for how to manage these risks going forward, we just haven't seen that.

STEFANOVIC: The Government seems fairly confident that it will be able to handle the influx, you've got staff that that will be used from the private sector that will go and help out the public sector. I've even spoken to some health experts who believe that we'll be okay, that there's enough of us have a stockpile of ventilators as well to be able to handle it. Is that is that not what you're buying?

ROWLAND: Well, of course, everyone wants this to be okay. Just wishing it does not make it so. Even though we have large numbers of ventilators and equipment as we know, you need the skilled people to be able to operate that. And at the same time, we've got a health force that is under considerable pressure at the moment. Public hospitals have their own challenges as well. But there is clearly no concrete plan in place for how we're going to cope with this. I will choose my words very carefully here and say two things. Firstly, everyone in our community should know that if they need an ambulance, if they need to go to emergency, they will be tended to. Secondly, we need to ensure that people are not misusing the system, the number of Triple Zero calls that have been made that shouldn't have been made is deeply concerning. And people should be very aware of that before they dial Triple Zero. But I want to be frank too. We have been hearing this from our communities for months now. People deeply concerned about what the rising case numbers mean for presentations in our hospitals. It seems only just now that the government is starting to catch up and recognise it. I mean, I've asked a question of Scott Morrison in parliament and just got ‘mansplained' on the issue that gave no comfort to either myself or anyone living in these affected areas. There needs to be a very concrete plan about how our hospital system is going to cope with this. And just looking long term people want a bit of ‘long-termism’ in here. I mean, they're proposing to build a new public hospital in the northwest without an emergency ward. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?

STEFANOVIC: Alright, Michelle Rowland. We'll leave it there. Appreciate your time. As always, I will talk to you again.