In NSW hospitals reaarange schedules to free up space in intensive care

14 07 2009

The chief health officer in NSW, Dr Kerry Chant, today said that hospitals here are rearranging their elective surgery schedules to free up space in their Intensive Care Units for swine flu patients. A number of otherwise healthy people have got very sick here.

Here’s Kerry Chant on ABC Radio’s World Today speaking to Simon Lauder:

SIMON LAUDER: …The chief health officer in New South Wales Dr Kerry Chant says some hospitals are already rearranging their schedules to accommodate swine flu patients.

KERRY CHANT: One of the ways in which we can get some additional space in our intensive care unit quite quickly is to just defer for a very short period some very complex surgery which is of an elective nature, not emergency, and that type of elective complex surgery can be deferred for a week or so and then that gives us time for the ICU to just meet a temporary increase in surge.

ABC Radio’s AM reported this morning that 5 otherwise healthy people under 40 have all been placed on a “last resort” life support machine called the ECMO. The whole latter half of the transcript of AM‘s report is worth reproducing here:

KERRY CHANT: The ECMO is a particular machine. It is basically where the lungs are given a rest and it is using sort of cardiac bypass.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: She says there has been an increased demand for ECMO this year and that the machines are being moved around the state to different hospitals as needed.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Since swine flu does appear to be striking younger otherwise healthy people with more severity than standard flus do, are you concerned that the capacity of the health system is starting to be challenged?

KERRY CHANT: The human swine flu is moving across metropolitan Sydney. Last week we have seen the impact most in Sydney south-west and then progressively it has been moving through. So that is actually a positive feature because it means that there are bits of the health system that are being impacted upon at different times.

There has been extensive planning over many years for a pandemic so the hospitals in New South Wales all have pandemic plans in place.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Dr Kerry Chant says in some cases the Health Department has reduced the load on intensive care units by deferring elective surgery.

Yesterday the New South Wales Government announced that a 61-year-old woman with underlying medical problems died from swine flu in Lismore.

The Commonwealth’s chief medical officer, Jim Bishop, says there have been 19 confirmed deaths around the country and he’s heard of two more overnight.

JIM BISHOP: Almost all of those swine flu deaths have been in people with prior medical conditions which have been exacerbated but as I said, there will be now some experience with unfortunately people who have been previously well.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The Federal Health Minister has set up a clinical taskforce looking at why swine flu is striking young healthy people so severely.

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