Western NSW Local Health District active chief executive Mark Spittal says the district is, at this stage, comfortable with hospitalisation numbers in western NSW as it juggles the huge wave of COVID-19 cases in the region and a monumental staff shortage.
Mr Spittal, speaking on ABC Central West on Wednesday, said there were about 200 staff not at work across the health district - which stretches from Lightning Ridge to Cowra and Cobar to Mudgee - on any given day because they were isolating.
In the latest report to 8pm on Wednesday night, there was 31 people in hospitals around the district battling COVID-19. Of those, two are in ICU. That's down significantly on the 41 patients the district was treating just two days prior, and Mr Spittal says that's a positive for everyone.
"Around about 40, the mid-40s [COVID cases in the health district's hospitals] is really where you start to lose comfort because of the stress and pressure that's putting on our workforce, many of whom are working extremely hard, double shifts and so on, just to keep things going," he said.
"The big challenge for us, as it is for many other industries, [is that] staff, who of course are members of the community, they can catch COVID or they can have members of their household who catch COVID.
"And at the moment, on any given day, we've got about 200 staff, most of whom are in clinical roles, who can't come to work because of their exposure in their homes."
Mr Spittal said the health district had contracts in place with the private hospitals in Bathurst and Dubbo.
"What we are tending to do is to actually move our patients, not COVID patients, but patients post-surgery or patients who are waiting for a placement elsewhere in the community, into those private hospitals for ongoing care when it's less clinically intensive," he said.
"And that's working extremely well for us."
What we look at is the rolling seven-day average, that's the most important number from our point of view.- Mark Spittal
He said there were signs this COVID wave in the health district was flattening.
"What we look at is the rolling seven-day average, that's the most important number from our point of view, and the growth rate of that, and we want that to be under one," he said.
"And the last couple of days it's got back to about one and that's the very first time it's happened since early December."
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