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Intensive care doctor reveals horrific consequences of COVID-19 pandemic

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Those on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak fear not just for their own lives, but those of their families as well.

An intensive care doctor says those on the frontline in Australia fear for their lives amid the COVID-19 outbreak. spoke to the doctor, who works in one of the country's leading hospitals, on the condition of anonymity.

But it was immediately clear that any optimism Australia will escape the worst of the pandemic isn't shared by some of those whose job it is to treat the worst affected.

LIVE UPDATES: Australian death toll rises

Like the firefighters who ran towards the World Trade Centre on September 11, medical staff are risking their own lives to fight coronavirus.

"I'm scared for my own safety when I look at countries that have thousands of people dying, and I wonder whether we should have access to better protective equipment," the doctor said.

"All I've got is a few pieces of fabric, with lots of gaps in between, to protect me, and my family, from possible death.

"I look at those countries and think 'oh my god'. Italy has got doctors dying and they're in space suits. What am I going to do?"

Much has been made of "flattening the curve" to ensure the hospital system can cope with the load.

But according to this doctor, his ICU runs at between 85 and 110 per cent of capacity in "normal" times, without any extra load from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"People forget what happens when the system gets overwhelmed. In that case people with conditions not related to COVID-19, who would have survived before, will now no longer survive," he said.

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"Patients with ruptured ulcers, or heart attacks, there'll be no-one to look after them. If you rupture your appendix, well sorry, all the intensive care units will be full with COVID-19 patients.

"So you're telling me I've got an elderly man coming in with septic shock from a burst appendix. I'm afraid he's going to die, so here's some morphine and we'll let his family hold his hand until he does."

The doctor said the flow-on effects from the pandemic would be devastating.

"I worry about the collateral damage," he said.

"People who would otherwise have recovered but didn't because there wasn't the capacity to help them."

The doctor also hit out at those who downplayed the risks the virus poses, and said 'mixed messages' from the government had contributed to that.

Doctors and healthcare workers in an Intensive Care Unit in Italy wear overalls and other protective equipment to prevent COVID-19 infection.

"The thing that made me so angry was people not taking it seriously," he said.

"Thinking it's only the elderly. That kids will be fine. No. Anyone can die from it.

"You're more likely to die in the higher age groups, but the facts were in Italy, most of the elderly weren't in intensive care. They were allowed to die. It was a case of, I'm sorry, you're over 75, so you don't get to go to intensive care."

The doctor said he was "livid" that the NRL and AFL tried to keep playing through the crisis, while images of people socialising in groups at the beach or the park left him in despair.

"Those people at the beach and the park, they don't take it seriously enough," he said with a heavy sigh.

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Police at Maroubra beach, After opening the Beach for a couple of hours it was once again closed. Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

"They just don't. That's part of the charm of Australia, but it's not going to help us.

"If everyone had faith in a message coming from a central, reliable source, they'd go along with it."

The doctor said comparing COVID-19 to the seasonal flu was naïve.

"To say it's just the flu is the height of delusion," he said.

"People are cherry-picking the numbers. Yes, there were 35,000 deaths last year from the flu, but what they don't realise is there is a vaccine.

"Coronavirus is actually far more contagious than swine flu. The entire population seems to have no underlying immune response to it. We've seen in the past, entire civilisations wiped out through disease. This is on that kind of scale.

Beachgoers flouting health guidelines at St Kilda Beach.

"The people spouting ridiculous statements that this is just the flu, are fundamentally unqualified to make that statement."

According to this doctor, those on the frontline feel like they've been taken for granted.

"We're scared for our lives, and we're scared for the lives of our families. We're seeing it overseas right now. Health care workers are dying," he said.

"The thing that's surprised me is the constant proclamations that medical advice is being listened to. If they'd spoken to anyone on the frontline, the answer a month ago would have been 'lock us the hell down'.

"To say you're not infectious until you have symptoms, that's rubbish. You don't get to a critical point in the viral count with the snap of a finger. It's been building up for a few days, and at some point your bodily fluids are teeming with the virus before you're symptomatic.

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"I want to be optimistic and hope we don't get overwhelmed, but nothing I've seen so far gives me any confidence it won't happen."

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Source: 9News

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