New modelling welcomed but SA health system still in a sick state


1 November 2021

The ANMF has welcomed new modelling suggesting the state health system will be better able to cope with hospital admissions once the borders re-open.

The SA Health-commissioned modelling, undertaken by University of Adelaide academics, suggests the chance of a COVID outbreak - averaging more than 100 cases per day over any three-¬day period - is estimated to be 27 per cent in the scenario where 80 per cent-plus of South Australians are fully vaccinated against COVID and current COVID health measures are retained.

The modelling predicts median peak ward and intensive care occupancies of 36 and nine beds respectively. For children up to 11 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated, the median peak ward occupancy is seven beds and ICU occupancy is one.

“I think that it's wonderful that they have released this information,’’ ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM told media today.

“We were calling on this from the outset because we had been looking at operating on other assumptions, figures which showed a much more dire situation, predicting 200 to 300 beds or an 80 to 100 ICU bed capacity. I have no reason to doubt that that modelling is accurate, but the modelling released today presents a much more positive scenario. So, it does paint things in a completely different complexion.

 “The system's still under huge duress. And we still need to work with a strategy of how to improve that situation and make work more liveable, with quality care. 

“We've been calling for additional beds, sub-acute beds, intensive psychiatric care beds and more workforce to be able to deal with it. That has been our position for a long time now. And successive governments have failed on this front.’’

Asked about the number of unvaccinated staff being forced to take leave for not meeting the November 1 vaccination deadline, Ms Dabars told media “the vast majority of nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing have already been vaccinated, and they are doing it for their patients, for each other and their community at large. 

“The reality is there is a workforce of about 18,000 nurses and midwives in SA and of those we understand several hundred who may be unvaccinated.

“We are really strong on supporting vaccination but we certainly understand that other people do have a choice to make and that is ultimately their decision,’’ Ms Dabars said. “There are a number of people who, for medical reasons or for other reasons, have determined not to.

“My understanding is they will be put on a period of leave, whether paid or unpaid, depending on what their entitlements are.

“I think there is a hope that perhaps at some stage they may change their mind or they might be in a different position. People were hoping that things might change, but I think the reality is that the world has shifted. And you may or may not even be able to get on a flight or go to a coffee shop and get a coffee without a vaccination, so the world has changed. 

“I think we need to come back to a core principle here which is we are already in a workforce crisis with an enormous shortfall of nurses and midwives who are available and working in the sector and people are already working 16 and 18 hour days and excessive amounts of overtime.  This is in both country and metropolitan areas. 

“The only silver lining in all of this is that COVID has really shone a light on the serious workforce issues we already have and it has opened up opportunities for some workforce planning and strategies to come into place that we have been calling for years,’’ Ms Dabars said. 

“For instance, we’ve been advocating for out of hospital strategies, strategies where people are cared for at home, strategies were there are additional sub-acute beds rather than always acute beds and these are strategies that the Government and department are finally putting into place.

“COVID has bolstered our arguments about making sure that the workforce is provided for in the future. And we were really pleased that the Government agreed with us on this occasion that all of the graduating nurses and midwives should be in transition programs. 

“What we'd like to see is that all of those who are completing their transition programs are also gainfully employed. And what we want to do is work with the Government and the universities to get a plan where people are mentored and supported into practice in a really productive way.’’