18 July 2022

New COVID-19 infections fall but health system struggles under pressure of 170-plus positive patients

| Lottie Twyford
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The hospital’s emergency department is extremely busy and long waits are being recorded. Photo: File.

The Territory has recorded 887 (431 PCR and 456 RAT) new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night and there are a record number of 171 COVID-19 patients in Canberra Hospital requiring care.

Of these, five are in ICU and three are being ventilated.

There were 167 people in hospital with the virus yesterday.

The latest caseload comes as Canberra Health Services and ACT Health are urging people to avoid the emergency department as the hospital struggles to manage high numbers of COVID-19 and other patients coupled with high levels of staff absences due to illness.

Canberrans are being encouraged to consider alternative options for urgent but non-life-threatening care, including GPs, Walk-in Centres and other telephone services.

However, staffing the Walk-in Centres is also proving a challenge.

The Tuggeranong Walk-in Centre was closed on both Saturday, 16 July and Sunday, 17 July.

Last week, Canberra Health Services CEO Dave Peffer said every morning is a juggling act with extremely high numbers of staff unable to work due to illness, caring responsibilities or other leave.

Mr Peffer said people who attended emergency departments would be cared for, but if they required non-urgent treatment they would have to wait longer.

That pressure on the hospital system is expected to be felt across the education sector this term.

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As students across the Territory return to the classrooms today, school communities have been warned to brace themselves for additional periods of remote learning as the pandemic continues to exacerbate the existing workforce shortage.

Last term, cohorts of public school students were sent home more than 50 times as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on usual arrangements.

With COVID-19 cases predicted to increase dramatically in the coming weeks, Minister for Education Yvette Berry last week called for employers across Canberra to be flexible with their staff who may need to spend time at home with their children.

But she sought to reassure parents that supervision at school will be available for vulnerable students or those who cannot be at home for any reason.

“When I say vulnerable, I mean, if you just feel at the end of your tether and you can’t stay at home anymore for lots of different reasons, then you are welcome to send your children to school,” she said.

Ms Berry said work was underway to review settings, including registration requirements, to see if teachers’ workloads could be reduced and if additional support staff could be brought in to help.

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Active cases have dipped below the 7000 mark for the first time since 1 July.

There are now 6964 (3907 PCR and 3057 RAT) known active infections in the Territory and a total of 178,875 (106,502 PCR and 72,373 RAT) COVID-19 cases have been recorded since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 97.4 per cent and 77.7 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 69.7 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.

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Interstate, NSW has reported five deaths overnight and 9761 new cases of COVID-19.

There are now 2169 people in hospital with the virus and 64 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported 18 deaths overnight and 10,251 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 821 people hospitalised with the virus and 35 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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Going over latest the National Cabinet announcements I see a lot of usage of “encourage”, “where appropriate”, but no real direction or action. Completely discouraging & inadequate. Who decides when necessary action is appropriate & must be done, not just encouraged (that’s right it is all up to personal responsibility).

re:

“The jurisdictions and the Commonwealth also agreed to provide that consistent health messaging out there, to encourage Australians to follow the recommendations that were provided by Professor Kelly. These include wearing masks indoors, where appropriate. When people are mixing and can’t have social distancing, then that makes sense for that to be highly encouraged. Also, getting tested, practicing good respiratory hygiene and where people are contacts, or where it’s appropriate, for people to work from home.”

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