Western NSW Local Health District active chief executive Mark Spittal says the district is, at this stage, comfortable with hospitalisation numbers in western NSW as it juggles the huge wave of COVID-19 cases in the region and a monumental staff shortage.
Mr Spittal, speaking on ABC Central West this week, said there were about 200 staff not at work across the health district - which stretches from Lightning Ridge to Cowra and Cobar to Mudgee, and incorporates major centres like Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo - on any given day because they were isolating.
In the latest report to 8pm on Thursday night, there were 33 people in hospitals around the district battling COVID-19 while, encouragingly, there were no patients battling the virus in intensive care, which is down from earlier in the week. And those hospitalisation figures are down significantly on the 41 patients the district was treating on Monday.
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"Around about 40, the mid-40s [COVID cases in hospitals] is really where you start to lose comfort because of the stress and pressure that's putting on our workforce, many of whom are working extremely hard, double shifts and so on, just to keep things going," Mr Spittal said.
"The big challenge for us ... (is) staff, who of course are members of the community, they can catch COVID or they can have members of their household who catch COVID.
"And at the moment, on any given day, we've got about 200 staff, most of whom are in clinical roles, who can't come to work because of their exposure in their homes."
Mr Spittal said the health district had contracts in place with the private hospitals in Bathurst and Dubbo.
"What we are tending to do is to actually move our patients, not COVID patients, but patients post-surgery or patients who are waiting for a placement elsewhere in the community, into those private hospitals for ongoing care when it's less clinically intensive," he said.
"And that's working extremely well for us."
He said there were signs this COVID wave in the health district was flattening.
"What we look at is the rolling seven-day average, that's the most important number from our point of view, and the growth rate of that, and we want that to be under one," he said.
"And the last couple of days it's got back to about one and that's the very first time it's happened since early December."
Across Western NSWLHD on Friday, 386 new cases of COVID-19 were reported. There were 91 new cases in the Dubbo local government area in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday night, including three in Wellington.
However, the figures only include PCR tests, and not positive cases identified via rapid antigen tests.
There were also 92 new cases in Orange, 76 cases recorded in Bathurst and 10 in the Mid-Western local government area, including four in Mudgee.
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