Sydney doctor details 'significant stress' as Covid hospitalisations rise

·3-min read

Despite the significant strain Covid is placing on the healthcare system and workers in NSW, one Sydney doctor has said she is confident the system will cope.

NSW is recording tens of thousands of cases a day, though the official number is believed to only be half the story. Residents who receive positive rapid tests at home will be able to register them with NSW Health by mid-week.

As cases surge, so are hospitalisations and deaths. On Sunday, NSW recorded its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic

On January 1, there were 901 people in hospital with Covid. On January 9, there were 1927 people in hospital.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Dr Nhi Nguyen, a staff specialist at Nepean Hospital's intensive care unit, said many of the patients coming to hospital with Covid have been able to manage the disease from home.

Dr Nhi Nguyen during the press conference.
Dr Nhi Nguyen acknowledged it's going to be a tough few weeks for healthcare staff. Source: ABC News

She said there is "good guidance" available for those who test positive through NSW Health, their GP or at a hospital.

"There are really high numbers presenting to hospital and we can understand the anxiety in the community faced with positive Covid tests," she said. 

"But we are consistently seeing a very small percentage of those needing to be admitted. The patients who do come, though, still present a significant strain to the hospital and the hospital staff."

Healthcare system to be under strain for weeks

Dr Nguyen said she believes healthcare workers had learnt "a lot" from the Delta outbreak, which plunged NSW into lockdown in mid-2021.

She said she has confidence in the systems that are in place, but acknowledged the "significant stress" front line workers will be faced with in the coming weeks.

"We understand, healthcare workers are under strain and there is significant stress. But we're there to support them in any way that we can," Dr Nguyen said.

"As a colleague told us in a planning huddle during the week, we know over the next three to four weeks, where the system will be under strain, it won't be perfect.

"But I have confidence that our health staff will do the very best job that they can to look after the community that they serve."

NSW Ambulances park in the receiving bay for the Emergency Department at the Liverpool Hospital in Sydney, Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Medical experts are concerned that hospital emergency departments in NSW will face almost five times the number of COVID-19 patients than intensive care wards.
Many people coming to hospital with Covid don't need to be admitted, Dr Nguyen said. Source: AAP

Omicron vs. Delta

The doctor also revealed that while not all patients in hospital are labelled as either Delta or Omicron, there has been a stark difference in patients' symptoms.

She said a significant number of patients in the ICU have the Delta variant and those patients tend to develop severe pneumonia and experience long intensive care stays.

Whereas patients with Omicron tend to have much shorter hospital stays and don't tend to need ventilators, she said. 

Dr Nguyen said there are ways people in NSW can support the healthcare system — like getting your Covid booster shot if you are eligible. 

About 93 per cent of people in NSW aged over 16 have had two shots of a Covid vaccine, and from tomorrow children aged five to 11 will be eligible.

Dr Nguyen said the community can also keep physical distancing, washing hands and self isolating when necessary to aid the healthcare system.

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