News Coronavirus Nurse fears COVID could ‘overwhelm’ ICUs
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Nurse fears COVID could ‘overwhelm’ ICUs

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Many Victorian nurses struggled at the height of the state's second wave. Photo: AAP
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A nursing manager who worked through Victoria’s deadly COVID-19 second wave fears the state’s intensive care units will become overwhelmed again as Delta continues to spread.

Western Health senior critical care nurse manager Kylie Fisher said she was “terrified” about Victoria easing restrictions too early.

In 2020, Western Health – which manages health services for millions of people in Melbourne’s west – had more than 400 patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19.

Ms Fisher said last year nurses would come to her feeling “overwhelmed, sometimes in tears”, with many worried about their families and colleagues.

“They were worried about how they would support their colleagues on the wards, looking after overwhelming numbers of acutely unwell patients,” she said in Melbourne.

“I saw tears, I saw exhaustion, I saw nurses consoling nurses, I saw blood across the ridges of their noses and ears for wearing PPE for 12 hours at a time.

“That was last year, and now we’re looking at a strain that potentially is more contagious.”

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Western Health nursing manager Kylie Fisher said she saw overwhelmed staff during last year’s deadly second wave. Photo: AAP

Victoria had 73 new COVID cases on Monday, down from a spike of 92 on Sunday. There are 805 active virus cases in the state, three-quarters of them in people under 40.

Health Minister Martin Foley said on Monday there were 49 COVID patients in Victorian hospitals, including 15 in intensive care.

Chief health officer Brett Sutton said people were more than twice as likely to be hospitalised if they caught the Delta variant.

Ms Fisher said she feared intensive care units “will become more overwhelmed” if enough people did not get vaccinated or the outbreak was not brought under control soon.

While last year a high number of COVID patients were placed in wards outside intensive care, “this year I’m seeing admissions straight to the ICUs”, she said.

“Last year we managed a large portion of our acutely unwell patients within the ward setting, but I’m worried that, being more contagious, our ICU beds will quickly be utilised and we’ll struggle to meet the demand of what is required for our community.”

Ms Fisher urged people to get vaccinated to ease pressure on Victoria’s healthcare services.

On Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed Victoria’s lockdown would not end on September 2. On Monday, Mr Foley said there was caused for some optimism.

“The situation has, we hope, plateaued,” he said, nothing there was “every indication” the state’s public health rules were starting have an effect.

But when asked about a plan out of lockdown, Mr Foley said there would not be a map like during Victoria’s deadly second wave last year.

Instead, the plan is the one agreed by national cabinet to rely on vaccination rates.

“In regards to specific timetables and in regards to specific measures, the public health team are working on those,” he said.

“But in terms of time frames … the strategy is the national cabinet agreed position, that when we get to 70 per cent, when we get to 80 per cent vaccination rates, our options multiply.

“If we do that, from the lowest possible infection levels, then our options grow.”

Up to 49 of the state’s cases on Monday might have been infectious while in the community. Mr Foley said at least 24 were isolating for their entire infectious period.

The source of infection in 21 cases is under investigation, with 52 linked to known outbreaks.

The virus is continuing to appear in regional areas, with one case announced on Sunday in the Gippsland town of Traralgon, in a person who had been to a funeral in Melbourne.

The outbreak in Shepparton also continues to grow, with nine cases reported on Monday linked to that cluster.

Anyone who attended Sky Salon Hairdressing in Shepparton between August 15-19 is urged to get tested.

In Melbourne, the city’s west and north remain areas of concern and authorities have repeatedly reminded people to get tested as soon as they recognise symptoms, with some waiting up to two weeks to get swabbed.

Victoria’s exposure site list stands at more than 900, including a children’s ward at Dandenong Hospital across three days from August 25-27, which is a tier two site. See all the latest exposure sites here.

-with AAP