Health staff pinch amid Qld virus wave

·3-min read

Queensland emergency rooms are facing their toughest COVID-19 wave to date as sickness and worker fatigue aggravate staff shortages, a leading doctor says.

Emergency medicine has become less attractive since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago, Australian Medical Association Queensland's Kim Hansen says.

"Emergency departments are really staffed mostly by junior doctors with some senior doctors supervising them, and the junior doctors in particular are choosing other paths," Dr Hansen told ABC radio Brisbane on Monday.

"My colleagues are feeling the stress and some of them are getting burnt out, which is just so sad to see."

Many waiting rooms, emergency beds and wards were at capacity and ambulance ramping was an ongoing issue, said Dr Hansen, who is chair of AMA Queensland's Ramping Roundtable.

"I think this is the toughest (wave) yet. The numbers are pretty huge and we've got influenza on top of that," she said.

Between six and seven per cent of Queensland health workers were currently on sick leave, which was about double the usual average, Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said.

"When you look at the beds being taken up with COVID and the reduced staffing, you get an idea of the pressure being faced across our hospital systems," she said on Monday.

A total of 967 beds are being used for patients who have either COVID-19 or influenza.

About 2480 health staff are off sick with COVID-19.

Ms D'Ath thanked health workers for their "incredible work and sacrifices" and warned pressures would get worse as cases peak.

"I know you're tired, I know you're exhausted," she said.

"I know they need a break, I know the pressures are endless at the moment."

But the government won't reinstate a mask mandate after the nation's leaders met for national cabinet on Saturday.

However, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged people to wear masks on public transport, at schools and in crowded spaces.

"National cabinet has agreed that we are strongly encouraging people, a big onus on personal responsibility," the premier told reporters on Monday.

"I know that Queenslanders out there will step up.

"What we need to do is slow this spread because our hospitals are under incredible pressure."

Pressure on the state's healthcare workers began long before the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates said.

"You were exhausted long before COVID. You were doing double shifts and triple shifts long before COVID, and many of you are leaving in droves," she said on Monday.

Queensland's current COVID-19 wave is expected to peak in coming weeks, and authorities are pleading with residents to take precautions to limit virus spread.

Staying home when unwell, wearing a mask when indoors in public and ensuring vaccinations are up to date are being recommended.

Queensland recorded another 6682 COVID-19 cases on Monday.

A total of 914 COVID-19 patients are in hospital, with 18 in ICU.

The state has 49,359 active cases.

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