Vic faces 700 COVID patients, one new hospital a week
Exclusive: Victorian hospitals will need to house 700 new COVID-19 patients a week unless a tougher stage 4 lockdown is imposed now, Australian Medical Association leaders are warning.
The number of new infections grew by 403 yesterday in a further sign the lockdown that began over two weeks ago has only stabilised cases but is not driving them down.
Senior medicos are warning that if case numbers keep rising at this rate within a week 100 people a day will need to go to hospital and they worry there may not be enough hospital staff to cope.
"This means 100 people per day needing a hospital bed - a new 700 bed hospital every week - and patients stay in hospital two weeks," Australian Medical Association South Australia president Dr Chris Moy has warned.
"The federal AMA, all of us, have agreed Melbourne and potentially Victoria do need to consider moving to stricter restrictions, to try and curb the spread, they are at stage three now then that would mean stage four," said AMA NSW president Danielle McMullen.
"There is major unhappiness in doctors groups about the response in Victoria, it's just not working," said Dr Moy.
Federal AMA president Dr Tony Bartone told News Corp "this is bloody serious, we need a circuit breaker".
He is calling for tougher stage 4 restrictions that would prevent anyone bar essential workers leaving home except for food and medicine.
University NSW pandemic expert Professor Raina MacIntyre said "this is a critical situation and shows the current measures are not working. The impact of masks, if enough people wear them, will be seen in one to two weeks."
AMA Victoria president Dr Julian Rait said the Victorian hospital system had enough ICU beds to cope as long as the infection rate remained below 1750 cases a day.
If infections ever exceeded this level there was the capacity to open emergency hospitals in Melbourne's Convention Centre and the Exhibition buildings, he said.
Grattan Institute health expert and former federal health department secretary Professor Stephen Duckett said the institute's modelling also showed that infections would have to exceed 1700 a day and stay at that level for 10 days before the system was overloaded.
Victoria's ICU's beds were reportedly operating at 85 per cent capacity on July 10.
Dr Rait and Dr Bartone said staff were already under pressure to man the beds and this was exacerbated with over 300 Victorian health workers in isolation because they have COVID-19 or were in contact with a known case.
"People are already doing back-to-back shifts, this is a real weak point in the system," Dr Bartone said.
Four Melbourne hospitals -The Northern Hospital, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Alfred Hospital and the Western Hospital - had to be put on ambulance bypass this week, Dr Bartone said.
News Corp has been told Victoria's pathology system is already buckling with laboratories in Sydney and South Australia being asked to run tests from people in Victoria.
A Victorian Government spokesperson said hospitals had been "preparing for coronavirus since January, creating extra capacity and ensuring we have enough beds, equipment and PPE to manage any surge in patients as a result of the pandemic".
Since the pandemic began more than 1000 spaces for ICU and critical care beds have been created or upgraded so they are suitable for coronavirus
The former Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, now known as St Vincent's Hospital on the Park, has been reopened to prepare an extra 84 beds for the health system.
There are plans in place to convert a thousand more critical care spaces by upgrading operating theatres, recovery and other ward areas and emergency department spaces.
More beds can be opened in modular facilities in hospital car parks.
"We have more than 1200 ventilators currently in Victorian health services, hundreds more ready to deploy in the warehouse if needed and thousands more on order - as well as more than a thousand IV pumps and hundreds of patient monitors."
Originally published as Vic faces 700 COVID patients, one new hospital a week