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Coronavirus: Five biggest problems facing our hospitals

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Australia’s hospitals could be in for a very tough time over winter as the coronavirus pandemic intersects with flu season, a leading think tank has warned.

Australia's hospitals are in for a tough time over winter as the coronavirus pandemic intersects with flu season, a leading Australian think tank has warned.

Five key challenges will hit our already under-pressure hospital system, according to the Grattan Institute.

Stephen Duckett, who has held leading policy health care roles in Australia and Canada, flagged up the most troubling concerns on the institute's blog.

Two people wearing face masks walk out of the emergency entrance at Westmead Hospital, in Sydney's west.

1. Emergency departments deluged by people

This is a poor use of resources. so the government is keen to encourage people deemed low-risk to not test or to use other testing services such as drive-through clinics or specialist fever clinics. 

Health authorities are creating up to 100 "pop-up" clinics, each expected to handle 75 patients a day.

2. Demand on ICU beds and hospital beds

Predominantly older people and those with compromised immune systems or other pre-existing medical problems, could require hospitalisation, Mr Duckett wrote. 

This will place pressure on beds and also ventilation units. 

Private and public hospitals will feel the strain, Mr Duckett predicted. 

Hospitals will likely need to increase ICU capacity. 

Buying more ventilation units will create a secondary problem, as skilled staff are needed to operate these machines. 

Expect waiting times for elective surgeries to blow out even further.

3. Hospital staff will catch COVID-19

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals will fall ill with the new coronavirus

They will need to self-isolate and take time away from work, just like anybody else who has tested positive.

Any absences will place additional pressure on an already stretched system.

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4. Hospitals can't get supplies

The pharmaceutical supply chain has been impacted by new materials not shipping from China during the height of its shutdown. 

Drugs, other medical supplies and protective clothing could have gone offline while Chinese factories shuttered doors. 

Lags are expected in fulfilling the huge demand from hospitals and clinics around the world. Any unavailability will, in the end, affect treatment of patients.

5. Economic impact on insurance and state budgets

Private hospitals do not usually provide emergency department services. 

But the unprecedented nature of this pandemic means they will be expected to pick up the slack. 

This is likely to increase costs for insurance companies, who will pass on the cost to consumers, Mr Duckett predicted. 

Public hospitals and state health budgets will come under enormous pressure, and the federal government may need to do more to assist.

Last week detailed how Australia's hospital beds and emergency departments may not cope with a deluge of coronavirus-stricken patients.

Source: 9News

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