NSW healthcare system under pressure as staff shortages hit hospitals

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The NSW healthcare system faces a staffing shortage, the leading medical association has warned, as hospitalizations for COVID-19 surpass 1,000.

As of Sunday, 1,066 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus, including 83 in intensive care and 24 requiring ventilation.

Watch the video above to see how the new “close contact” rules work.

Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy said the system was “struggling” with a staff shortage as the number of cases increased and health workers fell ill, tested positive or were identified as close contacts.

“People are looking at the numbers and seeing the 1,066 in hospitals, but the health care system is not just dealing with COVID and people have critical surgery delayed,” he told AAP.

At the height of Delta’s outbreak on September 21, there were 1,266 people hospitalized with infections and 244 in intensive care.

A spokesperson for NSW Health said as of December 30, 2,510 healthcare workers were in isolation after being exposed to COVID-19.

Waivers may be granted in exceptional circumstances to healthcare workers deemed critical and unable to work from home, but only if they are asymptomatic, the spokesperson said.

Dr Moy said the NSW Health policy change showed the “desperation” to fill out the lists.

NSW COVID update

NSW recorded two more deaths and 18,278 new infections on Sunday.

The number of tests until 8 p.m. on New Years Day had fallen to 90,019, down from 119,278 on New Years Day.

Sunday’s daily case count is also lower than Saturday’s 22,577 infections when four deaths were recorded.

A health worker with a COVID-19 positive patient inside “the bubble” at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. Credit: Getty Images

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kerry Chant stressed that the daily case count reflects tests done in the previous days as there are delays.

She urged anyone showing symptoms or having come in contact with someone positive for the virus to take a PCR test as soon as possible.

“You are more contagious before you have symptoms,” Dr. Chant said on Sunday.

“If you’re a family contact you need to self-isolate, but we also ask you to take a PCR test and then a (rapid antigen test) on the sixth day and if both are negative you can go about your business.”

“But we ask that you do not go to high risk facilities – health care, elderly care, disabled facilities or correctional facilities for the next six days. “

Medical staff rush to the isolation ward at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Some 93.6% of adult NSW residents have now received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while the 12-15 age group has dropped to 78.2% after receiving two doses.

Almost 14,000 of the cases reported on Sunday were in Sydney, while 1,342 were in the local health district of Hunter New England, 780 in the Nepean Blue Mountains and 414 in the central coast districts.

There have been hundreds of cases in Illawarra Shoalhaven and Northern New South Wales Health Districts as well as on the central north coast.

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