24 May 2022

UPDATED: COVID-19 chaos continues as two more ACT schools go partially remote, 11 surgeries postponed a day

| Lottie Twyford
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Namadgi School

Year 7 and 8 students at Namadgi School will join their peers at Gowrie Primary School and learn at home for a period of one week. Photo: File.

UPDATED 3:30 pm: Two additional ACT public schools will move some year groups to remote learning for a short period from tomorrow (25 May) while increasing pressure on the Territory’s hospitals means around 11 elective surgeries are postponed on any given day.

From tomorrow, Years 7 and 8 at Namadgi School and Years 5 and 6 at Gowrie Primary School will be at home for a period of one week. They will return to school on Thursday week (2 June).

These students join their peers in Years 9 and 10 at Wanniassa School and Caroline Chisholm School who are learning from home until tomorrow and Friday, respectively.

The continued pressure on the Territory’s healthcare system has left services, particularly frontline ones like the emergency departments (EDs), feeling the pinch.

For several months now, health authorities have warned of the pressure on EDs at Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital Bruce, with high numbers of patients presenting every day.

Dave Peffer

Canberra Health Services CEO Dave Peffer. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Canberra Health Services CEO Dave Peffer said the strain across the system meant the “kind of care we can give had to be redefined”.

Some specialist clinics, including the cancer service, have had to be closed for entire days so senior staff can be redeployed across the system or because staff simply cannot be located. At other times, elective surgeries have been delayed or postponed, or services have had to reduce their operating hours.

These sorts of adjustments to services would continue across winter, Mr Peffer explained.

The CHS CEO noted health systems all around the country are experiencing workforce shortages across the system and rolling recruitment processes were underway to try to alleviate this.

He said that hundreds of staff had been onboarded in the past two years as part of this drive.

Last week, the hospital system cared for the ACT’s 1000th COVID-19 patient.

Passenger waiting at bus stop

Canberra’s bus system is still operating on a reduced COVID-19 timetable. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

10:30 am: Daily COVID-19 cases have risen slightly in the Territory, with 820 (394 PCR and 426 RAT) new infections reported in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night.

Yesterday, 622 cases were reported and 91 people were in hospital.

The number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 has remained steady but the system continues to experience high pressure. Bus services may also be affected by COVID-related driver shortages.

There are now 90 people in the Territory’s hospitals with the virus, including three people in the ICU and two requiring ventilation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 126,633 (77,486 PCR and 49,147 RAT) COVID-19 infections have been reported locally. There are now 5074 (2647 PCR and 2427 RAT) active COVID-19 infections in the Territory.

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 97.2 per cent and 76.3 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have now received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 67.6 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.

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Yesterday, Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said around 35 drivers a day cannot work due to COVID. This is affecting the reliability of services, as was evidenced on Friday afternoon (20 May) when 26 services were cancelled.

“We’re trying to recruit more drivers at the moment. Everyone in every industry is trying to recruit more people. There’s a real workforce shortage so we’re doing the best that we can,” Mr Steel said.

“But it’s one of the reasons why we’ve been running an interim timetable – because we have seen significant impacts on our staff, including bus drivers.”

He said Transport Canberra was doing its best to communicate any potential cancellations or changes to services.

Last month the Canberra Liberals called for a return to the pre-COVID timetable, but the government shut down this proposal.

Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton said the Territory could not remain in its pandemic “cocoon” forever. At the time, Mr Steel said it would not be practical to return to a full timetable given the ongoing uncertainty around driver availability.

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Interstate, NSW has reported 14 deaths overnight and 8751 new cases of COVID-19.

There are now 1234 people in hospital with the virus and 38 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 16 deaths overnight and 11,656 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 545 people hospitalised with the virus, while 36 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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We’ve had the Transport Minister consistently putting his positive spin on the current state of the bus service.

He was on radio yesterday spruking the use of the NEXT Bus app to work out your bus timetable. I’ve twice been stuck for hours at an exposed bus stop thanks to incorrect information on the availability of the next bus. Luckily I could afford a $50 Uber in one situation.

Unfortunately he’s misleading bus patrons who rely on their local bus service. Steele isn’t actually working to deliver better bus services for users.

Minister Steele was probably talking up Nexbus, so people could check IF their bus was coming.
On the weekend, the bus we intended to catch didn’t turn up. Thankfully, there was an alternate service we could use.

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