AMA warns NSW post-lockdown roadmap will put ICU capacity under "enormous strain"

AMA warns NSW post-lockdown roadmap will put ICU capacity under "enormous strain"

According to the Australian Medical Association (AMA), the New South Wales Government’s plan released yesterday to leave lockdown once 70 per cent of residents are vaccinated lacked sufficient detail, including any modelling of future case numbers and health system impacts. 

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said that although the NSW Government stated it was following the Doherty modelling prepared for National Cabinet, it seemed to have ignored warnings that easing restrictions when contact tracing systems were already overwhelmed would lead to higher case numbers and a greater burden on the health system. 

“The Burnet modelling released by NSW recently was predicated on current restrictions remaining in place and did not include an assessment of what the changes announced today would mean for the health system,” Dr Khorshid said. 

“The Burnet analysis shows that NSW is likely to ease restrictions at a time when there will still be more than 500 infections each day and with the health system under considerable stress. We already know it is beyond the capacity of the NSW health system to effectively trace contacts of many hundreds of cases a day. 

“NSW needs to release the modelling it has used to inform today’s changes to either reassure the community that infection numbers will continue to come down to manageable levels or give the community an honest assessment of their impact on the health system.” 

According to the Burnet modelling, during October, November and moving into December, ICU capacity in NSW would be under enormous strain.  

The AMA said the public needed to know that the proposed changes would not make projected peaks worse or mean that they lasted even longer. 

Dr Khorshid said high infection numbers put pressure on all parts of the health system - emergency departments, hospital wards, ICUs, and primary care - and diverted resources away from the day-to-day function of the health system. 

“NSW is right to ease restrictions slowly and to limit changes to people who are fully vaccinated. However, the key problem facing NSW is that it is looking to ease restrictions when case numbers are likely to be too high,” Dr Khorshid said. 

“NSW should look to achieve a higher vaccination rate in order to reduce pressure on the NSW health system and ensure that NSW could open up in a sustainable way.

“Unfortunately, [the] plan appears to leave NSW at considerable risk of having to return to lockdowns.” 

Updated at 10.18am AEST on 10 September 2021.

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