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14 January, 2022

Hospitals are expecting surge in COVID-19 cases

ALTHOUGH Cairns reached 90.1% of double-vaccination figures, the Omicron variant has wreaked havoc in the city.

By Isabella Guzman Gonzalez

CHHHS Health Incident Controller Donna Goodman

The number of daily COVID- 19 cases is reaching up to 500 and the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic has rapidly jumped to 5,000 in a matter of weeks. 

Health Incident Controller at the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS), Donna Goodman, said strategies are in place for an impending surge in Omicron cases. 

“A big part of that (plan) is setting up this new testing clinic (Cairns Showgrounds) that’s away from Cairns hospital,” Ms Goodman said. 

“There are three key reasons for that. First, to reduce waiting times for people needing a test. 

“Second, to take people away from the clinical services at Cairns Hospital. 

“Third, we’ve got much greater capacity at this testing clinic; we’ve gone from five testing booths to 16 at the De Jarlais Function Centre. 

“We have also increased the staff to handle the greater capacity of the venue.” 

Ms Goodman said the CHHHS wants to focus on keeping the hospital services as relieved as possible to manage the increase of in-hospital patients. 

“We have had to cease some services to redirect services towards caring for people with Omicron, so we’ve reduced our surgical capacity,” she said. 

“However, we’re still treating trauma and category one surgery patients. 

“We’re expecting Omicron numbers to increase quickly, but also hoping they will decrease very quickly. 

“And we are prepared to deal with a surge of inpatients; we have access to the rest of the health services across the state. 

“If we require further assistance, we look to our partners in other hospitals and health services to support us.” 

During this Omicron surge, one of the people’s biggest concerns is the shortage of Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) around the country, which are required for close contacts to leave quarantine. Unfortunately, there is not much that the CHHHS can do to increase the RAT supply. 

“The Commonwealth government coordinates the RAT supply, so we are dependent on them to get what we can,” Ms Goodman said. 

“At the moment, we have sufficient supplies to be able to deal with the people who need them most: critical care workers and people who are in isolation and need a test to leave isolation. However, as soon as more RATs are available in the system, we will be able to provide more to people.” 

Currently, RATs will only be provided for people who require them to leave isolation, and they can find them at testing clinics upon request, one RAT per person. If RATs are not available, then they can get a PCR test. Ms Goodman said that citizens played a critical role in supporting frontline workers in this Omicron outbreak. 

“We certainly have got a lot of our staff who are affected by COVID or are close contacts,” she said. “So, we need to manage the scarce resources that we have and make sure that they’re directed to the most affected areas. 

“We’re asking that people support the health service plans by doing what they can to manage COVID as well. “Getting vaccinated, complying with social isolation, hand washing, mask-wearing. 

Also, having a COVID plan in place in your home so that if somebody in your house tests positive, you can manage at home without having to access the health services unless it’s necessary,” Ms Goodman said.

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