COVID-19 admissions forecast to triple at Wollongong Hospital

Health officials say they are planning for all contingencies. (ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) has begun bolstering its capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, with hospital admissions expected to triple as early as next month. 

Modelling released this week revealed NSW hospitals are set to be overwhelmed with admissions from late October, with an estimated peak of 3,434 COVID patients and 947 cases in intensive care.

The largest hospital in the Illawarra, Wollongong Hospital, has been acting as an overflow facility for Sydney since early August.

With local admissions on the rise, the hospital is caring for approximately 10 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) and between 25 and 30 patients in its dedicated COVID ward.

But this number is expected to surge when the outbreak peaks next month, according to Bruce Ashford, co-director of ISLHD's COVID task group.

"We expect we will be having to deal with in the order of 30 or 40 intensive care patients with COVID-19, in the order of more than 100 COVID ward-based patients."

Despite the October spike, ISLHD has begun preparing for the worst-case scenario.

"We have plans across the board from how we are now to being in a situation worse than the predictions," Dr Ashford said.

Bruce Ashford says Wollongong Hospital is expecting to treat more than 100 COVID patients during the October peak.   (Supplied)

As part of the preparations for October, certain parts of Wollongong Hospital will be repurposed as dedicated coronavirus units.

Parts of the day surgery will be converted into a second ICU ward after non-elective surgery was postponed.

This is expected to increase ICU capacity from 24 to 40 beds, with capacity to open a third unit if required.

Meanwhile, the COVID vaccination clinic, vacant since bookings were transferred to the mass vaccination hub last month, will be transformed into a second dedicated COVID ward.

This new ward will be set up in the next three weeks and boost capacity from 14 to 74 patients.

Looking at all options

With cases rising in the Shoalhaven, Shoalhaven Hospital has begun rolling out its COVID response plan.

Intensive care beds will be transferred into the recovery unit to create a segregated ICU for treating coronavirus patients.

Bulli Hospital could take COVID patients when admissions peak in October. (ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

The recently opened Bulli Hospital has also been identified to support the treatment of non-acute COVID patients if hospital admissions surpass the increased capacity.

"We are pretty confident in using that facility should that be required, and ultimately we are not going to know for a little while exactly what the demands are on the system," Dr Ashford said.

"We are looking at all options and reviewing all options so far as our ability to expand and look after the local population."


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