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NSW moving public patients to private facilities as outbreak stretches hospitals

Coronavirus patients in NSW’s under-pressure public hospitals are being moved to private facilities in order to free up beds amid surging infections and workforce shortages.

There were 303,795 confirmed active cases in NSW on Monday, with 2030 people hospitalised, including 159 patients in intensive care and 47 on ventilators.

NSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce said the department had reverted to patient management strategies it used during Sydney’s Delta outbreak in 2021 to try to reduce the strain on hospitals.

Ms Pearce said Westmead and Nepean hospitals were among those where patients had been shifted.

“During Delta, the same thing applied. Some of our western Sydney hospitals for example used beds in some of the private hospitals in their surrounds,” she told reporters.

She said the need to move patients should not be seen as a “failure” of the public hospital system and that it was a “pre-emptive and proactive” measure to help it manage.

The deputy secretary said she wasn’t prepared to give a breakdown of every hospital but the number of patients that had been moved were still “in the 10s and not the 100s at this stage”.

Camera IconNSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce says hospital capacity is being assessed every day. NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia

“The reduction in elective surgery means the capacity in our hospitals and in private hos­pitals exists, so it’s a sensible approach to move people rather than waiting until the hospital exceeds its capacity,” she said.

NSW has suspended non-urgent elective surgery – as have Victoria and Queensland – in a bid to free up healthcare resources as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole, who is isolating at home after contracting Covid, said the private hospital sector could ease the pressure on the public system.

“We have actually invested heavily in the health system, we have resources there to be able to cope with the number of cases arising,” he told Sunrise on Tuesday.

“They are making sure some of those patients are being moved from the public system across to the private system, to be able to alleviate some of the pressure on the public system but also support those staff.”

The state recorded 20,293 cases on Monday, which chief health officer Kerry Chant said was “clearly an underestimate” as people transition to rapid antigen tests (RATs).

Health officials on Monday confirmed 18 people had died with the virus, marking the highest number of deaths in a single day in NSW since the pandemic began at the start of 2020.

Premier Dominic Perrottet
Camera IconNSW chief health officer Kerry Chant has urged people to get their vaccine booster shots. Dylan Robinson Credit: News Corp Australia

Dr Chant revealed that some of the young people who died from the virus had the Omicron strain.

“I can confirm that some of the deaths in younger people have been, I am aware, associated with Omicron,” she said.

While the variant is very contagious, it is generally believed to cause a milder illness than the Delta strain that prompted Sydney’s months-long lockdown last year.

At the peak of the Delta wave in September, with 53,709 confirmed cases of Covid, there were 1266 people in NSW hospitals, with 244 of those in ICU and 118 on ventilators.

Premier Dominic Perrottet has acknowledged the health system is under pressure but insists it can cope with demand.

Government modelling shows the current outbreak, which is fuelled by Omicron, should peak in the third or fourth week of January before subsiding in February.

Mr Perrottet said the modelling showed that NSW has the capacity in its health system right now “even on a worst-case scenario”.

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