Australian Hospitals Under Severe Pressure Despite COVID-19 Respite

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Tempo.co

Editor

Laila Afifa

5 November 2021 16:23 WIB

A patient who tests positive for COVID-19 is bedridden in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, February 11, 2021. [REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo]

TEMPO.COCanberra - Australia's peak medical body has warned the nation's hospital system is under severe pressure despite a significant drop in patient numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) on Friday published its annual Public Hospital Report Card.

It found that even with "dramatically reduced patient volumes" amid coronavirus lockdowns, hospitals were still overwhelmed in 2020.

According to the report, 69 percent of emergency department (ED) visits were completed within four hours in 2019-20 -- the lowest rate since 2012-13.

The number of patients presenting to EDs fell 1.4 percent from 2018-19, a significant reversal of 3.2 percent year-on-year growth over the previous five years.

AMA President Omar Khorshid warned hospital performance was about to "get much worse."

"What's remarkable about this year's report card is it shows hospitals continued to struggle in 2020 when Australians stayed home, and we weren't dealing with the highly contagious Delta variant or high COVID-19 hospitalizations," he said in a media release.

"What we had was a once in a generation event -- a dramatic reduction in hospitalization from accidents, injuries and illness. But what it revealed was that, unless we do something dramatic to help our hospitals, this is as 'good as it gets' when it comes to hospital performance for Australians.

"Since the data in this report card was collected, volumes have not only returned to normal, but grown, and we will continue to have COVID-19 on top of it."

ED arrivals classified as 'urgent' -- patients with severe illness, heavy bleeding or a major fracture --- had just a one in three chance of being seen within 30 minutes in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) compared to a three-in-four chance in New South Wales (NSW).

Wait times for category two elective surgeries including heart valve replacements and cancer investigations have also grown, with 25 percent of people waiting longer than 90 days.

On Friday morning, Australia reported 1,598 new locally-acquired coronavirus cases and 14 deaths as the country continues to battle the third wave of infections. 

Read: Covid-19 Third Wave; Australia to Bring In International Doctors, Nurses

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