SA Health cancels elective surgeries in Covid wave

One state’s public hospital system has declared a “Code Yellow” emergency as a new wave of covid and flu strains healthcare workers and causes a spike in new patients.

South Australian Health Chief Executive Robyn Lawrence declared a state of emergency on Thursday and confirmed at a press conference on Friday morning that at least nine elective surgeries would be postponed and some patients in overburdened metropolitan Adelaide hospitals would be transferred to regional centres.

“In particular, I’ve been able to see this rising number of Covid presentations, but I’m also seeing an increase in pneumonia and heart failure and other conditions that can be triggered by older Australians who have viral illness of various kinds. ,” she said.

“It’s not unusual in the winter, but right now we’re experiencing 200 more patients in our hospital than the same time last year, which is a significant lift for our system.”

Respiratory illnesses are the main driver of the rise in illness, she said, and about 270 hospital staff are currently free of covid or flu, and about 140 patients are in the hospital with covid or flu.

Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier warned that flu posed a serious health risk to children and older Australians and urged parents to vaccinate their children and older Australians.

“The flu is really hitting those groups and those are the groups that are coming into our hospitals,” she said alongside Ms Lawrence on Friday morning.

Ms Lawrence said there were not enough beds for patients.

“Every day we have 100 patients waiting for a bed,” she said.

“We will use any space that is deemed safe to use as a bed space.”

Health authorities are warning that Australia is in for a brutal winter flu season

The announcement triggers an emergency response, redeploying resources and adjusting patient care.

While the hospital system works to regain control of the wave, priority two and three operations will be delayed, she said.

Telehealth will also be used to keep patients at home or in care if appropriate.

Simone King, 47, was ordered to have her gallbladder removed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

“I’ve waited a very long time for this operation and not having it will just leave me in a lot of pain,” she told The Adelaide Advertiser.

“I’m worried about having another gallstone.”

Attacks of respiratory diseases also affect other countries.

The “triple threat” of flu, covid and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) detections across NSW has prompted health authorities to urge people over 65 to get a free flu shot.

A NSW respiratory health watchdog report released on Thursday revealed a 27 per cent increase in flu reports and a 23 per cent increase in Covid-19 notifications week-on-week.

And NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said despite flu transmission surging, with cases expected to “rise rapidly” over the next few weeks, vaccination rates were not where they should be.

“Less than half of people aged 65 and over in NSW have received a flu shot this year and we really need to see that number rise, particularly as people in this age group are among those most at risk of severe disease,” Dr. Chant said.

“We expect the number of flu cases to increase rapidly in the coming weeks, so now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.”

The report also notes that notification rates for covid-19 are “increasing for all ages and most local health districts (LHDs)”.

“In the past week, there were still high rates of notification of COVID-19 among those aged 90 and over,” they wrote.

“LHDs with smaller populations, such as Far West LHDs, experience greater variability in notification rates.”

Incidents of RSV were also high in children between two and four years of age, but reports of positive cases stabilized in children under two years of age.

The notification rate increased by 4 percent weekly.

They also paid special attention to whooping cough and pneumonia.

The highest rates of whooping cough have been found in children aged five to 14, with the number of cases appearing to be increasing.

Reporting rates between 2022 and 2024 showed a rapid increase, from one per 100,000 people recording the virus in 2022 to 10.8 cases per 100,000 cases om 2-23.

By 2024, this figure had already reached 85.4 notifications per 100,000 people.

Pneumonia, a potentially deadly lung infection, is also of concern to health authorities, making it “incredibly common” for children and young adults, especially people aged 5 to 16, to see emergency rooms.

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