THERE are fears that Bathurst Hospital won’t be able to cope if the city and surrounding areas see a spike in coronavirus cases.
To date, the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) has confirmed 44 cases of COVID-19, with nine of those in Bathurst.
No new cases have been identified in the district since April 6, and Bathurst has gone two weeks without tests finding any new cases.
However, health authorities and the government have been urging people not to get complacent even though the number of new cases each day has been dropping in Australia.
Bathurst Regional councillors are also not getting complacent, which is why some of them are concerned about how the hospital would cope if there is a spike in cases.
Their fears stem from the health crisis Bathurst was already experiencing prior to the global pandemic, with many calling for increased health services in the area and less reliance on Orange Base Hospital.
Councillor Jess Jennings said his concerns were bed numbers, staffing levels and what other services would be impacted if there was an influx of new COVID-19 cases.
“We’re essentially going into a situation where we had a health crisis before the C-19 pandemic, so now we’ve got a health crisis on top of a health crisis,” he said.
“Our hospital was basically running at 100 per cent capacity before the pandemic, so put another 10, 20, 30 per cent of demand potentially onto hospital beds and all of a sudden you’re in a situation where, I’m concerned, Bathurst is going to be woefully under-resourced if C-19 becomes prevalent in our community.”
Warren Aubin, a councillor and the spokesman for the Bathurst Health Services Action Group, said there was concern about how the hospital would cope a month ago when the group last met.
“Three of the doctors were there and they all said it was a very worrying time because they were already bed-locked,” he said.
Mr Aubin said it was “fantastic” coronavirus cases had seemed to stabilise and a credit to those doing the right thing.
“People have become very responsible for what they’re doing,” he said.
“A lot of people, myself included, were a little bit skeptical about the whole thing to start with, thinking it won’t ever happen to you, but I think most people are now seeing that it can happen to anybody, so for people to be reacting the way that we are, it’s a credit to everybody.”
However, he also said it wouldn’t take much for the situation to change.
And, even if COVID-19 cases don’t rise, the hospital could still be overwhelmed in winter by flu cases.
“People who get the regular flu may think they’ve got the virus and all of a sudden you’ve got all these presentations to health services and it could go mad,” he said.
“At the moment, we’re fairly stable and we’re doing well, there’s no excess overcrowding of the health service, but we’ve just got to not become complacent and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
In a statement, the WNSWLHD has tried to allay the fears, saying there are “strategies in place to quickly respond to any surge in demand, including significantly increasing ICU capacity”.
“All non-urgent elective surgery has been postponed and a workforce campaign to attract new and recently departed health care providers is under way,” a spokesperson said.
“Other strategies which can be deployed include Hospital in the Home Services, working with private hospital partners, and collaborating with other health care providers in the community.”
The spokesperson said health staff are also preparing in case of increased demand.
“They are doing an incredible job, and we need the community to do its job in minimising the spread of COVID-19 now,” they said.
People are being asked to stay at home unless it is absolutely essential, and remember to:
- Clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow
- Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
- Stay home if you are sick
- Keep your distance from others as much as possible through social distancing
For advice and information about COVID-19 visit NSW Health.