Australia will need 57,000 additional nurses and more than 30,000 extra beds to get out of lockdowns permanently and overcome the high number of coronavirus cases, according to a new report being prepared for the national cabinet.
According to data from a task force set up by Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy, the country will have to rely on the private health sector to help fill the void and get through a post-lockdown world.
The task force will present its findings Friday to a divided national cabinet, with rogue prime ministers still refusing to commit to reopening state borders when the 70 percent fully vaccinated rate is reached.
“It’s about cooperation between public hospitals and private hospitals,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“Notably, it brings 57,000 nurses, more than 30,000 beds, more than 100,000 employees all in that partnership, to provide massive peak capacity.”
In New South Wales, where the Delta variant has led to 23,586 cases in the latest outbreak, there are 957 patients in state hospitals battling Covid.
Of these, 160 are in intensive care and 64 are breathing through ventilators.
Australia will rely on a private health system to help cope with high Covid rates regardless of vaccination coverage as the country reopens in October (pictured, Blacktown Hospital)
Australia needs an additional 57,000 nurses to get out of lockdown permanently with high Covid cases, according to a new report (pictured, an RPA nurse in Sydney)
As Australia moves towards a goal previously agreed by the national cabinet to open borders and end lockdowns between 70 and 80 percent vaccination rates, leaders have cited the Doherty Institute Modeling as a guide.
The model, which has come under scrutiny for using hypothetical numbers and working backwards, and that it only has 180-day simulations, has been regularly cited by leaders including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian.
It has found that even with coronavirus cases rising, there would be no significant change in death rates if lockdowns eased when the majority are vaccinated, although the curve would peak sooner.
Officials are using the modeling to predict pressures on the country’s health care system, which is already experiencing affected services, particularly in NSW and Victoria as states grapple with Delta outbreaks.
Australia will need the private health sector to complement the public system, centering on nurses, beds and equipment.
Australia has begun to prepare for increased hospital admissions with increased capacity for ventilated beds in Covid wards (pictured, a Covid ICU patient at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, in July)
Minister Hunt says hospitals are already being prepared for large numbers of cases, including ventilated beds increasing from a capacity of 2,000 to 7,500.
Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly says there are still 4,000 invasive ventilators in the national medical supply, as well as other Covid-specific equipment.
‘There is a personnel problem. We have to work through that. And we did that last year and trained extra nurses at the time with an idea that we should have stepped up last year,” he said on Thursday.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said: the Australian the health care system was already at a breaking point before the pandemic started and any extension of it could be catastrophic.
“Even pre-Covid the emergency rooms were full, the ambulances were running up and waiting times for elective surgery were too long,” he said.
Australian Medical Association president says Australia’s health care system was already under tremendous pressure even before the pandemic started (pictured, ambulances parked at Blacktown Hospital on Aug. 26)
COVID AND KIDS: THE FACTS
Based on studies by University College London, 251 British children were admitted to ICU between March 2020 and February 2021 due to Covid
There is a 1 in 50,000 chance that a child will be admitted to the ICU after contracting the virus
25 children died due to Covid in the first year of the UK pandemic
There is a risk of 2 in 1,000,000 deaths from Covid-19 in children
Greater participation from state leaders will also be needed, with Queensland and Western Australia waiving an agreed timetable for opening up the country.
Prime Ministers Mark McGowan and Annastacia Palaszczuk recently said they would not open borders to states with high numbers of Covid cases, regardless of vaccination coverage, angering the prime minister.
Outspoken Queensland Deputy Prime Minister Steven Miles wrote vehemently against the plan in The Australia, claiming the modeling had been misinterpreted and saying it was ‘false hope’ for NSW and Victoria that the country would learn to live with the virus.
“Decide how many people should die and work back from there — what level of vaccination you need and what other public health measures should remain in place,” he said.
“That’s the complex, tough life-and-death decision that Scott Morrison tried to simplify into a simple song and three-word slogan.”
He said his state’s children would be the people in the firing line if they opened, as under 12s are not eligible for jabs yet.
That was disputed by the CHO, who said there was no evidence that Delta affected children more adversely.
South Australia has sided with Victoria and NSW to follow the national cabinet’s plan and continue with open borders after 70 percent vaccination, with a solution yet to be found.
Queensland Deputy Prime Minister Steven Miles (pictured) criticized the Doherty modelling, suggesting it doesn’t provide an accurate picture of the long-term treatment of the virus
What are the four stages of opening?
A. Vaccinating, preparing and testing (from 14 July)
Arrival caps halved to 3,035 per week; early, severe and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available in apps like Apple Wallet
B. Post-vaccination phase (when 70 percent will be stung, expected by the end of this year)
Lockdowns ‘less likely but possible’; vaccinated people face reduced disabilities; limits for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger limit for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; limited entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation Phase (when 80 percent is pricked, time not announced)
Removal of all outbound travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers; no limits for vaccinated arrivals; increased limits for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles arise with countries like Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not disclosed)
Unlimited arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and unlimited arrivals for unvaccinated people with pre-departure and on-arrival testing