COVID-19 cases and capacity at St George and Sutherland hospitals kept secret

At capacity: The Australian Paramedics Association NSW has raised the alarm about the impact of the pandemic on hospitals. Picture: Chris Lane
At capacity: The Australian Paramedics Association NSW has raised the alarm about the impact of the pandemic on hospitals. Picture: Chris Lane

The NSW Government says its hospital system can cope with an expected COVID surge in coming weeks, but just how many beds and ventilators are available for COVID patients at hospitals in St George and Sutherland Shire is being kept secret

The Leader has asked South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) a number of times for a breakdown of available beds to treat COVID patients in designated COVID wards and intensive care units at both St George and Sutherland hospitals, but was told the information would not be disclosed.

The Leader has also asked on occasion about specific numbers of COVID patients at the two hospitals, but SESLHD said it would not provide this information.

It comes as the Australian Paramedics Association NSW said in a Facebook post on Saturday that St George Hospital's COVID ward "is already full".

"Paramedics on the road today are reporting that things are looking very bad," the post said.

"There are reports that the new St George Hospital COVID ward is already full.

"When we are stuck at hospital, we can't respond to Triple-0 calls.

"We have been warning the NSW Government that we have been under-resourced for years.

"We need urgent action to address this under-resourcing crisis, and urgent welfare and well-being supports for paramedics."

In response to recent questions surrounding preparedness at St George and Sutherland hospitals, and rising pressures on healthcare staff as a result of an influx of patients, a SESLHD spokeswoman said "the district's pandemic plan is regularly reviewed to ensure our health services are prepared for possible surge in activity".

"Already, strategies have been implemented, such as the temporary suspension of non-urgent elective surgery," she said.

"There is sufficient ICU capacity in NSW public hospitals at present, including those in South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD)."

The Leader reported earlier this week that hospitals in St George and Sutherland Shire are already seeing an influx of COVID-19 patients, resulting in long delays for some services, including radiology and pathology, and leaving some patients waiting weeks for urgent test results.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association said large numbers of COVID-19 patients were being treated in hospitals and intensive care units, including St George and Sutherland Shire, which was putting an "incredible strain on those" working in the system.

The union warned the current workloads were "unsustainable" and staff were already becoming "burnt out".