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‘Things being done differently’: Surge plan to add more workers to COVID fight

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NSW Health said there were 979 patients with COVID-19 in hospital on Friday, including 160 in intensive care. More than 25,000 cases have been recorded in NSW since June 16, as Sydney completes its 10th week of lockdown.

The Premier said it was likely “different procedures”, such transporting patients to hospitals further from their home, would need to be used as cases increased.

“Just because you hear about something being done differently, I don’t want people to be concerned by that because that is what is in our pandemic plan,” she said.

Transmission has continued to occur in Sydney’s hospitals. Investigations are under way after an unvaccinated midwife and a new mother at Northern Beaches Hospital were diagnosed with COVID-19. Two close contacts of the patient have also tested positive and 20 staff are in isolation.

One of the 12 dead was mother-of-four Jamila Yaghi, aged in her 30s, who died at her Guildford home. Another, a woman in her 70s, died after she acquired her infection at Westmead Hospital.

While the state was working to triple its ICU capacity to 1500 beds in coming weeks, Ms Berejiklian said she did not expect it would all be used.

Alison Hodak, president of the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses this week said: “We need to look at different ways of managing the increasing cases, sharing the load of the patients across the whole system in NSW. That way we aren’t overloading one particular hospital or one particular workforce.“

A Liverpool Hospital COVID-19 ward and intensive care unit staff member, who spoke to the Herald on the condition of anonymity, said about 20 operating theatre nurses have been moved to staff these units.

“Theatre nurses provide critical care but many don’t do bedside nursing,” she said. “ICU nurses have a complete understanding of the intensive care treatments, ventilation, oxygenation systems and they can recognise quickly when a patient is deteriorating. They have a very particular skill set.”

The nurse said theatre staff were given three days’ training, including “refresher” online courses, to work in the ICU.

A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said 33 new full-time surge staff members had been deployed to Sydney’s west and south-west this week and 30 new crews would start on September 11.

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Since the beginning of this outbreak, NSW Ambulance has responded to more than 3500 suspected or confirmed COVID-19 positive patients.

About 1000 Rural Fire Service volunteers and staff have been deployed to the pandemic effort, Police Minister David Elliott said, with “many more on standby”.

They have worked at vaccination centres and testing clinics, as well as distributing personal protective equipment and delivering hampers to people in isolation.

“There is also a major logistical operation under way to deploy and establish the RFS base camp at Wilcannia to house medical staff working in the area,” Mr Elliott said.

More than 1000 State Emergency Service workers have also been engaged, establishing and working at pop-up testing clinics, including one at Orange, as well as at the emergency operations centre in Bass Hill, in Sydney’s south-west.

Ms Berejiklian said on Friday she sensed a recent shift in the attitude of state and territory leaders towards the reopening of Australia, despite her Queensland and West Australian counterparts threatening to push back against national cabinet plans.

“I think most state leaders and chief ministers are coming around to what the experience has been in NSW. I’ve sensed, certainly, a shift in how people think delta will coexist with us in Australia, and I’m very optimistic about that,” she said.

“I think people are realising what we realised, because we were confronted with what we were in NSW, that delta is a game changer. That COVID is here to stay for the foreseeable future.”

The mayors of the 12 COVID-19 hotspots met Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock on Friday morning to voice concerns from the heavily restricted communities. The group was given an email address for the Office of Local Government to direct their queries.

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