'Shockingly unprepared': Staff 'exposed' as hospitals struggle with Covid

NSW’s health system has been slammed for being “shockingly unprepared” after images of overflowing bins and paramedics huddling for warmth outside hospitals were published on Twitter overnight.

APA NSW, the union for state paramedics, posted the images in an effort to highlight the burden placed on hospitals and frontline staff as Sydney continues to battle its raging Delta outbreak.

“Nepean Hospital last night: staff wrapped in hospital bedsheets (not even blankets) to stay warm during long waits outside ED,” APA NSW Tweeted alongside an image.

“Temperatures are dropping, and today it’s even snowing in the mountains. How long will NSW Health continue to leave essential frontline staff exposed?”

It comes as one NSW MP says healthcare workers are telling her the system is "shockingly unprepared to cope with the current outbreak".

Paramedics huddle together with blankets to keep warm at an emergency department.
APA NSW, the union for state paramedics, posted the images in an effort to highlight the burden placed on hospitals and frontline staff. Source: APA NSW

In another photo posted by APA NSW, several bins outside a hospital could be seen overflowing with PPE material.

“In makeshift waiting zones outside major hospitals, bins are overflowing with used PPE. Some aren’t even appropriate for contaminated waste disposal,” APA NSW said.

“This is the same area where Paramedics complete our essential paperwork. When will NSW Health step up for frontline staff?”

NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann backed the union’s callout for help in a press release published on Wednesday morning.

She said “internal communications” sent to her overnight by “frustrated health workers shows that, despite assurances to the contrary by the health minister and the premier this week, the state’s public health system is shockingly unprepared to cope with the current outbreak, putting the health and safety of doctors, nurses and patients at risk".

She said critical PPE like face masks had to be rationed.

“To say this is an abject failure on the Government’s part just doesn’t cut it. They have had 18 months to prepare for an outbreak of this scale. How on earth can our major public hospitals already be rationing face masks which are so essential to prevent infection of our health workers?” she said.

MP Faehrmann said she has written a letter to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard “outlining eight things he can do immediately to resource our hospitals and ICUs”.

Earlier this week, a NSW nurse working on the frontline in the fight against Covid revealed the distressing reality of wearing full personal protective equipment for a 12-hour shift.

Katie, who works in an emergency department, filmed a before-and-after account to demonstrate the physical impact of the long Covid shift.

Westmead Hospital calls 'yellow emergency'

On Tuesday, one of Sydney's largest hospitals called a "yellow emergency" as it struggles under the weight of growing Covid-19 cases in the city's west.

The Western Sydney Local Health District's executive team sent an email to staff indicating the change in settings at Westmead Hospital.

The email said the hospital was "standing up an emergency operations centre" to grapple with the increase in Covid cases at the facility.

The hospital would immediately reduce ambulance arrivals for Covid patients for a 24-hour period, seek to transfer several critical patients to other Sydney metropolitan hospitals and conduct urgent critical care reviews.

The LHD would also work with private hospitals to open up 100 more beds.

"We acknowledge that we are no longer operating in a business-as-usual environment and careful assessment and response is required to manage future demand for our services," the email, seen by AAP, says.

NSW Health data shows almost 4000 Covid cases have been uncovered in the past four weeks in the Western Sydney LHD.

There are currently more than 600 people with Covid in hospital in NSW and 107 in intensive care.

NSW Health says it currently manages about 500 intensive care beds but has a surge capacity of about 2000 when required. The government has repeatedly said the hospital system is coping with the increased workload.

With AAP

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