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Byron Shire
May 18, 2022

Lung specialist ‘we’re doing the best we can’ and Hazzard lays it on the line for the unvaccinated

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Dr Lucy Morgan at NSW Health headquarters.

At this morning’s COVID-19 update press conference, Concord and Nepean Hospitals lung specialist Dr Lucy Morgan gave an update on COVID-19. Dr Morgan says she works as part of a team of people looking after patients with COVID.

‘I was in the hospital ‘till about one o’clock this morning. And about every hour between 1am and 6am I got another call about another patient seeking to be admitted to my hospital with COVID illness, so I am a bit tired and I’m a bit nervous.

‘I’ve been a lung specialist for 25 years and I’ve got a lot of experience now with looking after patients with COVID. I’ve been working in this in this pandemic for two years, so I feel well placed to talk to you about the real clinical impact on people when they get COVID illness.

‘I’d like to share some of these experiences with working in these teams and to help us all to understand better why things are so hard for us working in the hospitals when Omicron is supposed to be a milder infection.’

‘I’d like to explain why booster plays such a critical role, I think, in helping to keep our hospitals going.

‘Boosters, hand hygiene, sensible physical distancing and social connectedness are all part of our strategy really long term for managing COVID in our community.

We are exhausted

Dr Morgan said New South Wales Hospital staff have got two years of experience with managing the challenges of COVID-19. ‘We’ve got really remarkably sophisticated treatments for COVID-19 now, we’ve got extraordinary vaccine programmes and we’ve got one of the most vaccinated populations in the world, but we are exhausted.

‘And in responding to the unprecedented demands, the thousands of patients presenting to our hospitals every day, our capacity to manage everything else has also really changed.

‘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 New South Wales 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 said these are the reasons every little thing that we can do to reduce the incidence of severe disease from COVID makes just such a difference. ‘When I last spoke to this audience, I think we were in the thick of the Delta wave. The community was not vaccinated in really high rates. People were getting very, very sick with very bad lung problems. We were getting COVID pneumonitis – lung failure because of COVID infection with Delta – and we were really worried about not having enough intensive care beds and not having enough ventilators to look after this wave of patients with severe lung failure.

Changed the way that patients are managed

‘But the system really responded. We learned more about the disease. We adjusted we used all those words like agile and adaptive, and we changed the way we treated patients. We bought lots of equipment, we trained ourselves up and we changed the way that we manage these patients so that we could look after people who needed intensive or lots of respiratory care, even when there wasn’t enough room within the intensive care unit. And this made an enormous difference to the people of New South Wales. We saved lots of lives

‘Dr Morgans says it was also at that time that the NSW vaccination rates started to rise. ‘Thank you. That was the most important thing we could do for each other at that time. And we as a community were protected from the severe illness that the COVID Delta variant caused and the wave passed. Briefly.

Along came Omicron

‘And then came Omicron. So similar in so many ways to delta a flu-like illness with some minor subtle differences in the way that it causes symptoms for patients. So lots of aches and pains, lots of headaches. Lots of very sore throat, and for some people still severe illness.

‘So, having Omicron does not mean you’re just going to have a cold. Omicron as a variant of the COVID-19 virus has the potential to cause very severe illness just like Delta. And those that particular risk of getting very sick from Omicron are the same group who were at risk from Delta. Those who are incompletely vaccinated, those with underlying health complaints or conditions, and those who are frail and that includes our elderly community.

‘It is true that most people who catch Omicron do not get so sick as to need my care or the care of my colleagues in the intensive care unit. Proportionally most people do not get as sick, but it is so much more contagious than the Delta variant. The sheer number of people who get COVID is enormous in comparison. So even if nine out of 10 patients with Delta have symptoms that leaves them feeling crook, but they can recover at home. There are still thousands of people every day who was sick enough to present to hospital.

‘Now most are discharged from hospital. They’re assessed by clinicians in the emergency department, or in the in the virtual hospitals and they’re discharged back to their own homes. But even so, thousands are admitted across the state every day – I think in the last 24 hours, and I’ve been on call for those 24 hours – there were more than two and a half thousand patients admitted to hospitals.

Four key points

‘So why are we so full? Why are the hospitals so full? And why are we so stretched if Omicron is supposed to cause less severe disease? Well, there’s four key things I’d like to mention.

‘One is that there are still people who are incompletely vaccinated. So those people, some of whom have not had any vaccinations at all, some of whom are yet to get through their three doses – the two doses and then the booster. And there are a small group of patients who despite having all their jabs, they do not have an immune response that’s complete and they are unable to fight the virus.’

Dr Morgan said if we understand that there are about eight million people in New South Wales, even if there’s 1 per cent unvaccinated, that’s 80,000 people who are still at significant risk of catching COVID and developing severe disease. ‘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, in aged care facilities, our frail elderly, and our comorbid. That’s a funny word, but it means people who’ve got lots of medical things wrong with them.’

Immunity has waned

Dr Morgan said an important point is the group of people whose immunity has waned over the last few years. ‘This is a particularly important point about getting boosters. Those who were vaccinated in the first wave of vaccinations, which includes our healthcare workers and our elderly patients, they are now coming to the time when they need boosters. And then there’s our hospital staff who are of course a part of our community living at home with their families, and who are now catching COVID themselves. If they’re not ill with COVID, they’re caring for their family members and have become first contacts. These are not staff who caught COVID at worker – our PPE works and we know how to use it really, really well – but these are people who are living in their families and therefore catching COVID in their family units, and therefore can’t come to work.’

Six thousand staff unable to work

‘Then there are the people that keep our hospitals running. Yes, it’s doctors. Yes, it’s nurses, but it’s cleaners, it’s porters – it’s people who help to feed patients to wash patients to clean the wards and to get through to patients.

‘Those who are left standing a carrying a much higher burden, because we’ve got so much of a gap in our workforce at the moment. I think yesterday there was 6,000 staff members in the in the state unable to work.

‘Last night I was in the hospital at 1am. The senior nurse helping me look out the patients with COVID Ward was the same nurse who was there at the handover at 7am she’d been there all day – double shifts. The hospital is full of stories like that.

‘So we’re doing the best we can and we’re going to keep doing the best we can. I just want to make sure I’ve made one final point. The last time I spoke to this forum, I encouraged us all to get vaccinated. It’s still the main message. Boosters in combination with washing our hands and physical distancing remains very, very important part of our fight against COVID and about keeping our hospitals running.

‘Omicron is still a potentially very severe virus and if we’re going to keep going, we really, really need to do everything we can as individuals, to keep our hospitals ticking over.’

Health Minister blasts the unvaxed

Health Minister Brad Hazzard looked in no mood to be messed with. ‘I’d like to thank the doctors, nurses, allied health cleaners, porters and industry staff who she [Dr Morgan] just talked about, who are utterly exhausted after two years of this pandemic.

‘I think it’s important that we as a community recognise and understand the pressures that our medical community are under, not just those in the hospitals of course – general practitioners, pharmacists – are also part of that equation.

‘Dr Morgan has been a lung specialist or respiratory specialist for 25 years, she is now a two year COVID veteran. It is almost two years since we had our first four cases, one week and one day away from the first day we had COVID arrived on our shores. And in that time as doctors, nurses and all the other health staff right across our community have reached the stage of exhaustion.

‘I want to just say to the community, it is time for all of us, if we haven’t been vaccinated to go and get vaccinated.

‘The latest data from New South Wales 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. That means you are requiring the assistance of the health staff who are already exhausted.

Mr Hazzard had a strong message for the unvaccinated. ‘Can I just say to those people who have chosen not to get vaccinated, it’s time to give a damn about someone other than yourself. Give a damn about your community, your family and most particularly the health staff across New South Wales who you expect to be looking after you, if and when you end up in our hospital system.’


 

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10 COMMENTS

  1. All sentient people greatly admire and thank to wonderful frontline workers , be they nurses,doctors or checkout chicks but…don’t bring idiots like Hazzard or that other fool for hire , Brendon Murphy, into the argument.
    People in NSW have had to endure the idiotic performance of government since the Ruby Princess until the great ‘opening the borders’, luckily the majority have conducted themselves heroicaly inspite of criminally ignorant and outdated, untimely and incorrect advise from our over-lords.
    The West Australian, N.T. and Queensland states have ignored federal condemnation and have until recently avoided the rising death toll.
    The disgusting war we inflicted on Vietnam cost 500 lives, what has the mishandling of this plague cost in lives, liberty and Liberal relevance ?

    • And there he was at the presser yesterday, at which Doctor Lucy also attended and spoke, our Premier Domicron telling us all to “stay strong and push through”. Yeah, pushing through alright by trampling over our exhausted Health Staff that Doctor Lucy spoke of, trampling over the Covid ill and trampling over the Covid dead, all have all been offered up as sacrifices to King Covid in some sort of weird belief that the economy would be spared. The handling of Covid by the NSW Government from the outset under Not my Glad with the Ruby Princess disaster to the present day Omicron catastrophe under Domicron has been criminally negligent. NSW, “The Gold Standard”, how’s that going these days. As an addition about our stretched and exhausted Health Staff, it revealed that 995 NSW Health workers have resigned or been sacked after refusing to be vaccinated against Covid. This on top of the almost 6,000 healthcare workers in NSW in isolation over the weekend due to Covid exposure. Well done to Domicron and Health Hazard Brad for their planning to protect our health system, NOT. Just everyone remember to, “stay strong and push through”, yeah.

  2. I just want those who don’t give a damn to have the medical profession not give them a damn..

    Seriously folks, 6 million dead in just 2 yrs.!
    What more evidence do you really need.
    It’s a zoological virus that has mutated across and into our lives. Please understand just as the world is heating up, so is virus mutations.
    Prepare for the global virus holocaust and protect others.

    • I believe there is zero evidence to support a zoonotic origin for COVID-19. Senior officials such as Sir Jeremy Farrar in the UK have been privately admitting that the balance of probabilities leans towards a lab escape while publicly dismissing such a notion. A document has recently emerged from the US agency DARPA that unequivocally points to a lab origin.

  3. Thanks Echo for consistently informing our community with the best advice on dealing with covid. Your duty of care is a shining example to other media and community comment. I am proud to support you.

  4. It was a bit surprising to hear Dr Ingalls give a somewhat rose-coloured picture of the situation on the ABC yesterday.
    DR Lucy seems to be giving it us ‘as it is.’
    Not sure if he has political affiliations but he sounded like an apologists for the incompetents leading us in Canberra and Macquarie Street.
    Ditto Gareth Smith’s comment.

  5. We need to ‘push through’ the timeless fog & not give way. 6 million dead
    in 2 years! It’s no longer a non-vaxer sniffle.

  6. A lesson in how to write a long story about pressure on hospitals, without a single mention of the role of early treatments and immune-boosting supplements as a means of minimising the number of people needing hospitalisation.

  7. HCW’s are the real heroes in this terrible pandemic

    They lay their lives on the line day in and out.

    US and EU experience has shown that if they do get Covid, they often die due to massive overexposure
    to the COVID virus
    HCW’s are the real heroes in this terrible pandemic

    They lay their lives on the line day in and out.

    It’s a shame that at least HALF their ICU patients are UNVACCINATED shedding up to 10x more virus than VACCINATED patients

    As I said;

    HEROES

  8. Sacrificial Lambs. I recall the many who believed that all the above meant
    no more than a lite flue. Sadness now is not – & never will be – good enough.

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