More strain on hospitals as COVID cases tipped to surge

23 June 2022

South Australia’s COVID cases are expected to surge to 6,000 per day by mid next month as the flu season takes hold and the state is hit with a new variant of the Omicron strain.

The modelling comes as SA on Tuesday recorded 2,270 new cases and another 11 deaths (from data reconciliation covering February 26 to  June 19), with 230 people currently hospitalised and nine in intensive care.

SA authorities are keeping current COVID restrictions in place and elective surgeries on hold amid warnings that hospitalisations will rise as a new Omicron strain, BA.5, emerges in SA.

“The information that was presented to us this morning was that in New South Wales currently the new BA.5 variant numbers have gone up quite dramatically, to a lesser extent in Victoria, and there is now a small presence of the BA.5 variant in South Australia,’’ Premier Peter Malinauskas was quoted in InDaily.

“The information that we received suggested that the new BA.5 variant isn’t any more dangerous than previous iterations but may potentially result in case numbers going up – that’s a function of potential increased transmissibility but also issues around immune escape which are still to be determined and the science is currently evolving on.”

Investigations at RAH and FMC - sent to SafeWorkSA - found EDs full well beyond capacity, patients waiting for days in EDs for ward beds, patients being treated in chairs, fatigued doctors and stressed staff in tears over the “constant bombardment” from management to clear the ramp of ambulances.

Patients waiting in EDs for an inpatient bed now regularly exceed well over 100, with 148 reported on Monday morning. Around 40 patients had been waiting more than 12 hours.

The previous early morning record was 139 people, occurring twice in May last year.

“The ANMF (SA Branch) has been calling for winter-demand planning since January, addressing workforce shortages and the need for additional beds and community services,” ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said.

“There has been little sign of the COVID-19 pandemic easing, which is why we have been calling for a winter demand strategy. Now more than ever, with a new COVID subvariant coupled with the worst flu season since 2017, it is essential that these measures we have been calling for are put in to place.

“It is why we want the State Government to commit to hiring all 1,200 nursing and midwifery graduates when they finish studying in October and, in addition, to commit to offering full-time employment to all those who are completing their Transition to Professional Practice Programs this year. 

“We are also advocating for retention payments and incentives for all frontline nurses and midwives which will also provide for an experienced workforce offering support, supervision and mentoring for the expected influx of graduates.

“We have had initial discussions with the Minister for Health Chris Picton on these matters, particularly the importance of not only hiring all 1,200 nursing and midwifery graduates but a commitment to offering that full-time employment after their program. The new Government appears to be genuinely committed to implementing meaningful change to the health sector.”  

The ability to retain experienced staff in the short term is of grave concern and the ANMF (SA Branch) believes these measures are critical if we are to maintain or expand staff capacity over the coming months.