Australian Critical Care Nurse Afraid COVID-19 Outbreak Could Overwhelm Medical Sector

By Henry Jom
Henry Jom
Henry Jom
August 30, 2021 Updated: August 30, 2021

A nursing manager is worried a rise in COVID-19 cases could overwhelm Victoria’s Intensive Care Units (ICU) unless vaccination rates increase.

“Last year we managed a large portion of our acutely unwell patients within the ward setting, but I’m worried that, [Delta strain] being more contagious, our ICU beds will quickly be utilised, and we’ll struggle to meet the demand of what is required for our community,” Kylie Fisher, Western Health senior critical care nurse manager said at a press conference on Aug. 30.

“Please get vaccinated. It’s the best way to keep yourself, your community, your loved ones safe and to make sure our healthcare workers aren’t overwhelmed and they can support patients when they do need our help,” she added.

Fisher’s concerns come amid calls in NSW for an expansion of working nurses as the state’s health system struggles to cope with surging daily COVID cases. NSW recorded 1290 cases, while Victoria recorded 73 cases on Aug. 30.

In her speech, Fisher said last year, nurses in her ward would come to her feeling “overwhelmed” and “sometimes in tears,” and that nurses would console with one another. In 2020, more than 400 patients with COVID-19 were admitted to Western Health’s Sunshine Hospital.

“I saw blood across the ridges of [the nurses’] noses and ears from wearing PPE for 12 hours at a time,” she said.

“They would come to work worried about how they would support their colleagues on the wards, looking after overwhelming numbers of acutely unwell patients.

“They would come to me, and they would say: “Kylie, it’s like nothing we have ever seen before. The patients are young and fit, and the next minute they’re well, and the next minute, we’re taking them to ICU.”

While acknowledging how difficult lockdowns were for Victorians, she said patients with the Delta strain of COVID-19 were entering intensive care at a faster rate compared to last year and that patients were being admitted straight into ICU.

Health Minister Martin Foley said on Aug. 30 that the state’s case numbers had “plateaued” and that lockdown measures were working. However, he added that restrictions could be eased before the 70 percent vaccination target is reached.

“We’ve had public health restrictions in different iterations for the best part of 18 months now,” he said.

“I think we can work on the basis that, if we are successful [in driving down the spread of cases], there will be different restrictions.”

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said it was hard to tell whether the state could get back to zero cases and urged more Victorians to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Victorian epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said measures to contain the outbreak—such as the curfew and five kilometre travel limit—and the state’s target of zero cases should be scrapped, reported The Age.

She added that the state government would eventually concede that it cannot contain the outbreak and will lift some restrictions that are not major contributors in transmission.

AAP contributed to this report.

Henry Jom
Henry Jom