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WNSWLHD urging communities to count the COVID-19 numbers that count

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21 January 2022

Mark Spittal, Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) Chief Executive, is urging the region’s residents to consider, and play their role to help minimise, the impact of COVID-19 on health services.

“The number of people that we know have COVID-19 should not be the measure people use to assess the risk they, and their community, face,” Mr Spittal said.

“Far more compelling numbers that maybe get less attention, are the number of people across the District who are getting booster shots, the children being vaccinated and the number of people who are in hospital who have COVID-19.

“In recent weeks, we have seen upward of 40 people in hospital with COVID-19 on any given day but that number has not increased at anywhere near the same rate as known case numbers in Western NSW. That shows vaccination is working.

“Yes, there are people in hospital who are vaccinated but the sheer number of people with COVID-19 in the community means that is no surprise.

“When you look at the most seriously unwell people across NSW, and adjust for those people who are in ICU for reasons other than COVID-19 alone, it becomes starkly clear that it is unvaccinated people who end up in ICU solely due to covid-19. Thankfully, we will never know how many more people might have fallen seriously ill if we didn’t have such strong community vaccination coverage.

“Compared to the number of cases across the District, upward of 40 people in hospital may not seem like a lot but altogether it is still enough to fill the inpatient beds in two or three of our Multipurpose Service, or almost a third of Bathurst Base Hospital. It’s more than the number of people in an average hospital ward, every day.

“Regardless of whether they’ve come to hospital because of COVID-19 or for another reason but also have COVID-19, the amount of extra work that goes into caring for someone with COVID-19 is still there and it impacts our other services.

“Those patients need to be kept as separate as possible from everyone else in hospital. Our nurses and other hospital workers have to go through a totally separate routine to protect themselves, there’s extra cleaning and more PPE required such as masks and gowns.

“Most significantly, much-needed elective surgery is being delayed. Some people have waited for surgery for almost two years in our District due to the pandemic and we desperately want to get them the care they need as soon as we safely can.

“Of course, it’s not just about beds either. In some of our smaller communities if we have just one or two healthcare staff off work because they have COVID-19 or need to isolate, it places services under a lot of pressure.

“We still need every bed and every person in our team available to do the work we normally do and provide care to all patients – people who need dialysis or an operation, mothers giving birth, people who need cancer care or who have an emergency.

“The total number of people with COVID-19 is going to get bigger before it starts reducing, we know that. The virus is everywhere, and outside the known cases we report it’s incredibly likely that there are many more undiagnosed cases of COVID-19 across the District. It is very likely that case numbers will rise when schools return.

“But exactly where and when those numbers rise and fall should not be what motivates people to be COVID-safe and to get vaccinated.

”The ability of your local health service to keep caring for people, whether they have COVID-19 or not, is what our communities care about. We all need to be behaving in a COVID-safe way all the time now.

“And, of course, getting vaccinated. Vaccination is our best protection against serious illness. We are seeing the proof of that every day now.

“Our vaccination services play a small but important role in the wider vaccine roll-out and we still have appointments available for people who haven’t yet been vaccinated, those who should now be having a booster shot and for kids now they are eligible.”

For more information on COVID-19 vaccination and to book an appointment, visit the WNSWLHD website​ or the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder.