‘Exhausted’: lung specialist Dr Lucy Morgan reveals Omicron’s hospital toll
A Sydney respiratory physician and lung specialist has described the toll the pandemic is taking on exhausted NSW hospital workers on the frontline of the Omicron wave.
Lucy Morgan said the sheer number of infections was close to overwhelming hospitals despite high vaccination rates and “sophisticated” treatments for the virus, as she implored people to get their Covid-19 vaccine booster shots.
NSW recorded 29,504 new coronavirus cases and 17 deaths on Monday, with Australia approaching the two year anniversary of its first recorded coronavirus cases.
There are 2776 people in NSW hospitals with the virus, up from 2650 on Sunday, of whom 203 are in intensive care, up from 191.
Dr Morgan, who works at Nepean and Concord hospitals, said thousands of daily Covid presentations were affecting the health system’s capacity to manage other patients.
“In the short-term, that’s okay. But in the long-term – and it’s two years now – this is bad. It’s really hard on us and it’s really hard on the people of NSW,” she told reporters.
“Because this is leading to some delayed diagnoses, some longer waiting times for everything and a huge burden on our community as we try to keep everything ticking over.”
Dr Morgan spoke to reporters on Monday morning after working in a Covid hospital ward until 1am.
“And about every hour between 1am and 6am, I got another call about another patient sick enough to be admitted to my hospital with Covid illness,” she said.
The senior nurse supporting her on the ward on Sunday night had done an 18-hour double shift that began at 7am, Dr Morgan said.
“The hospital is full of stories like that. So, we’re doing the best we can. We’re going to keep doing the best we can,” she said.
About 6000 NSW hospital workers were furloughed on Sunday, she said.
Dr Morgan said the state’s hospitals were stretched because there were still people needing treatment who hadn’t been fully or even partially vaccinated.
“If we think about eight million people in the state, even if there’s one per cent unvaccinated, that’s 80,000 people who are still at significant risk of catching Covid and developing severe disease,” she said.
“Many of these are our community’s most vulnerable: Our homeless, our patients with very severe or uncontrolled poor mental health. Those living in disability support facilities, even aged care facilities, our frail and elderly.”
She said hospitals continued to struggle with significant gaps in their workforce with staff catching Covid or having to isolate as close contacts.
Dr Morgan said booster shots were the most important tool to keep hospitals running in the fight against the Omicron variant, which is now fuelling about 95 per cent of NSW’s daily Covid infections.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it was time for people who chose not to get vaccinated to “give a damn” about someone other than themselves.
“Give a damn about your community, your family and most particularly, the health staff across NSW who you expect to be looking after you if and when you end up in our hospital system,” he said.
“The latest data from NSW Health shows that in this Omicron wave, if you are not fully vaccinated, you are six times more likely to end up in hospital and 13 times more likely to end up in ICU.”
Of the over 16 population in NSW, 95.2 per cent have had at least one dose of a vaccine and 93.8 per cent are double-dose vaccinated.
Most adult Australian residents are eligible for a booster shot four months after their second dose.
Originally published as ‘Exhausted’: lung specialist Dr Lucy Morgan reveals Omicron’s hospital toll
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails