Canberra hospitals on cusp of amber alert as COVID-19 outbreak and patient numbers grow

ACT hospitals are on the cusp of an “amber” alert as Canberra’s COVID-19 outbreak grows and more residents require hospitalisation.

Patients infected with the disease took up 15 per cent of the city’s hospital beds earlier this week — the highest level recorded during the pandemic.

The ACT’s trend COVID-19 ward occupancy rate was lower, at 12 per cent, though this was significantly higher than all other states and territories.

The data, published by the federal Health Department, compares with a national trend of 7 per cent.

National Cabinet says an infection occupancy rate of 15 to 30 per cent of hospital beds is an amber-level clinical scenario.

A rate of more than 30 per cent is classified as a red alert.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the influx of infected patients was “very worrying”, though interstate comparisons were not necessarily useful.

She said not all patients with COVID-19 had been hospitalized because of the disease; some people discovered they were infected when they were in hospital for another reason.

Ms Stephen-Smith also said modeling suggested the ACT might have already experienced the worst of this year’s influenza season.

The high COVID-19 occupancy rate in ACT hospitals is not an Australian first.

New South Wales hospitals reached similar levels in summer, while the Northern Territory experienced a red alert during its severe outbreak in February.

Health workers ‘exhausted’ but breathe not yet possible

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith is urging Canberrans to help reduce the spread of the disease.(abcnews)

Ms Stephen-Smith said the pressures on Canberra’s hospitals were concerning and she was aware of the toll on staff.

“The really difficult thing is the distress our healthcare workers are in, and the absolute exhaustion that we know they’re experiencing at the moment,” she said.

“This is shared right across the country.

The ACT’s health workforce is experiencing record levels of unscheduled absences, as those caring for the sick fall ill themselves.

The minister said many nurses and doctors needed recuperative leave, but the present crisis precluded it for now.

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