ICU director urges Victorians to get jab

·2-min read

The head of one of Victoria's busiest intensive care units has urged the community to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help ease the strain on tired staff.

Stephen Warrillow, director of Austin Health's ICU, was invited to the state government's daily coronavirus update to make an impassioned plea to Victorians.

"(The team) are tired. They are incredibly resilient and their dedication is humbling, but there is a finite amount of time that people can keep this up," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"If you are fully vaccinated you may still be unlucky enough to get COVID but you are not going to become critically ill, you are not going to die and you will not need intensive care support."

Dr Warrillow said if ICU staff were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, it would impact their ability to treat others, including those who need major heart or cancer surgery.

"What we don't want to do is get overwhelmed with an influx of admissions requiring intensive care support that we have to change our model of care to something that isn't the gold standard," he said.

"We have got plans as to how we would do it, and how we would do it as safely as we possibly can, but those are decisions that I don't want my team to have to make."

There are currently 52 people battling COVID-19 in hospital, of which 16 are in intensive care and 15 are on a ventilator.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the median age of people hospitalised with the virus was 49, while those on ventilators are aged between 38 and 72.

Dr Warrillow said the sickest patient he had treated for COVID-19 was aged in their 40s.

"It is like drowning on dry land. You cannot get enough oxygen, you cannot get enough air. No matter how much you try," he said.

"The relentless effort to breathe is overwhelming until the point where the patient simply can't safely maintain that anymore and we have to put a breathing tube down into their throat.

"To do that to a human being is a big deal."

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