Coronavirus Australia: 30,000 hospital beds and 57,000 nurses needed to battle Covid surge

Australia will rely on private health system to help handle high Covid numbers regardless of vaccination rates as country moves to reopen in October (pictured, Blacktown Hospital)

Australia will require 57,000 more nurses and more than 30,000 more beds if it is to move permanently out of lockdowns and overcome high coronavirus cases, according to a new report being drawn up for national cabinet.

According to data from a taskforce 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 move through a post-lockdown world.

The taskforce will present its findings to a divided national cabinet on Friday, with rogue premiers still refusing to commit to reopening state borders when the 70 per cent fully-vaccinated rate is hit. 

‘It’s about the partnership ­between the public hospitals and the private hospitals,’ Health Minister Greg Hunt said. 

‘In particular, it brings 57,000 nurses, over 30,000 beds, over 100,000 staff all up into that partnership, so to provide a massive surge capacity.’ 

In New South Wales, where the Delta variant has lead to 23,586 cases in the latest outbreak, there are 957 patients in the state’s hospitals battling Covid.

Of those, 160 are in intensive care and 64 are breathing through ventilators.  

Australia will rely on private health system to help handle high Covid numbers regardless of vaccination rates as country moves to reopen in October (pictured, Blacktown Hospital)

Australia needs 57,000 more nurses if it is to come permanently out of lockdown with high Covid case numbers, according to a new report (pictured, an RPA nurse in Sydney)

Australia needs 57,000 more nurses if it is to come permanently out of lockdown with high Covid case numbers, according to a new report (pictured, an RPA nurse in Sydney)

As Australia moves towards a goal earlier agreed at national cabinet of opening borders and ending lockdowns between 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates, leaders have been citing the Doherty Institute Modelling as guidance.

The model, which has been scrutinised for using hypothetical numbers and working backwards, as well as only having 180-day simulations, is regularly referred to by leaders including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

It has found that even with surging coronavirus cases, there would not be a significant change to mortality rates if lockdowns eased when the majority are vaccinated, though the curve would peak sooner. 

Officials are using the modelling to predict the strain on the nation’s healthcare system, which is already seeing impacted services particularly in NSW and Victoria as the states grapple with Delta outbreaks.

Australia will need the private health sector to supplement the public system, with nurses, beds and equipment the focus.

Australia has began preparing for higher numbers of hospitalisations with increased capacities for ventilated beds in Covid wards (pictured, a Covid ICU patient in St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, in July)

Australia has began preparing for higher numbers of hospitalisations with increased capacities for ventilated beds in Covid wards (pictured, a Covid ICU patient in St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, in July)

Poll

SHOULD ALL STATES AND TERRITORIES OPEN THEIR BORDERS WHEN 80% ARE DOUBLE JABBED?

  • Yes 789 votes
  • No 218 votes

Minister Hunt says hospitals are already being prepared for high numbers of cases, including ventilated beds increasing from a capacity of 2,000 to 7,500.

Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly says there are 4,000 invasive ventilators remaining in the national medical stockpile, as well as other Covid-specific equipment. 

‘There’s an issue of workforce. We need to work through that. And we did last year and provided training to extra nurses at that time with an idea we would have had to surge last year,’ he said Thursday.

Australian Medical Association President Omar Khorshid told The Australian the healthcare system was already at breaking point before the pandemic started and a prolonging of it could be catastrophic.

‘Even pre-Covid, emergency departments were full, ambulances ramped, and waiting times for elective surgery too long,’ he said.  

The president of the Australian Medical Association says Australia's healthcare system was already under immense pressure even before the pandemic began (pictured, ambulances parked up at Blacktown Hospital on August 26)

The president of the Australian Medical Association says Australia’s healthcare system was already under immense pressure even before the pandemic began (pictured, ambulances parked up at Blacktown Hospital on August 26)

COVID AND KIDS: THE FACTS 

Based on studies by University College London, 251 UK children were admitted to ICU for Covid between March 2020 and February 2021 

There is a 1 in 50,000 chance of a child being admitted to ICU after catching the virus

25 children died as a result of Covid in the first year of the pandemic in the UK

There is a 2 in 1,000,000 risk of death from Covid-19 in children

Source: UCL 

There will also need to be increased participation from state leaders, with Queensland and Western Australia reneging on an agreed upon timeline for opening up the country.

Premiers Mark McGowan and Annastacia Palaszczuk have recently said they would not open borders to states that had high numbers of Covid cases regardless of vaccination rates, drawing the ire of the Prime Minister.

Outspoken Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles wrote a fierce opposition to the plan in The Australia, claiming that the modelling was being wrongly interpreted and said it was ‘false hope’ to 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 need to stay in place,’ he said. 

‘That is the ­complex, difficult, life-and-death decision Scott Morrison tried to simplify down to a simple number and three-word slogan.’ 

He said his state’s children would be the people in the firing line if they were to open given under 12s are not yet eligible for jabs.

That was disputed by the CHO who said there was no evidence to suggest Delta effected children more adversely. 

South Australia have sided with Victoria and NSW in following the national cabinet’s plan and pushing forward with open borders post 70 per cent vaccination, with a resolution still needing to be found. 

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles (pictured) slammed the Doherty modelling suggesting it doesn't give an accurate viewpoint of handling the virus long-term

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles (pictured) slammed the Doherty modelling suggesting it doesn’t give an accurate viewpoint of handling the virus long-term

What are the four phases of opening up?

A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)

Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet   

B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)

Lockdowns ‘less likely but possible’; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders  

C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)

Lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out 

D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)

Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival 

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