Australia’s healthcare system well prepared for the coronavirus

22 March 2020 4 min. read
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Australia has the world’s fourth most prepared healthcare system according to The Global Health Security Index (GHS) – perhaps a small piece of comfort in the face of corona.

While the global coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across Australia, with KPMG predicting a significant hit to the local economy, panic-buying Aussie citizens can at least be partially reassured that the nation boasts one of the world’s most robust healthcare systems. Among more than 190 countries worldwide, Australia ranks fourth on The Global Health Security Index, behind only the US, UK and the Netherlands.

Only first published last year, The Global Health Security Index (GHS) is a joint initiative of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the Economist Intelligence Unit, and is described as the world’s largest study into global health security capacities. According to the GHS analysis, Australia performs particularly well when it comes to detection, and leads allcomers in a number of encouraging areas.

Australia's healthcare system well prepared for the coronavirus

As it specifically concerns the coronavirus outbreak and Australia’s capacity to contain its spread, the local healthcare apparatus is ranked number one or equally so for its laboratory systems and epidemiology workforce, as well as for linking public health and security authorities, risk communications, and trade and travel restrictions. Beyond containment, Australia also lands in top spot for its capacity to test and approve new medical countermeasures.

With the size of Australia and its state-level governance in areas providing their own special challenges, Australia also ranks atop of the pile in the “communications with healthcare workers during a public health emergency” category. At the global level, keeping in mind the pandemic will likely eventually spread to every country worldwide, Australia is number one for its international commitments and cross-border agreements on health emergency responses.

Good news. Except that after years of cuts to public health (unbelievably, the nation is ranked a lowly 108th for ‘financing’), Australia doesn’t measure up quite as well when it comes to the Prevent (8th globally), Respond (10th), and Health (6th) subdivisions of the GHS Index, and poses higher risks than many other nations, ranked here in at 18th. One area which is likely to rankle many, Australia is now down in 60th worldwide for immunisation. 

Australia's preparedness for the coronavirus and pandemics

Still, in addition to especially weak financing, other lower-end rankings are of the government’s own making. Australia places 77th for environmental risks (the lower the ranking the higher the risks), with land use and changes in forested area among the indicators, while comparatively poor access to communications infrastructure (NBN?) sees the country down in 40th. As to healthcare access, Australia is 82nd, managing a score of only 48 out of 100.

Meanwhile, Australia’s cross-Tasman cousin is ranked at 35th on the table, with New Zealand given a boost by its lower risk status, while its closet neighbour in Papua New Guinea lands at a rather concerning 155th of 195 countries studied. Further afield, China – the viral epicenter which has largely managed to get the situation under control – ranks in 51st, while two of the hardest hit nations to date, Italy and Iran, place respectively in 31st and 97th.

In other related Corona news, an Australian aviation consultancy has warned that major airline companies across the globe are flying towards bankruptcy if the current environment around the Covid-19 persists. Meanwhile, experts from consulting firm Kearney have released a six step guide for CEOs that outlines which actions they should take to keep their business afloat.