12 Oct 2021

Covid-19: Surge nurses will be able to cover intensive care units - Andrew Little

From Morning Report, 7:40 am on 12 October 2021

The Health Minister, Andrew Little, says there's surge capacity to fill crucial nursing gaps on short notice if the delta outbreak escalates.

Specialists say nurses are already stretched and there is pressure to keep up with treatment of non-Covid-19 patients.

Little told Morning Report the surge nurses are able to fill ICU roles on short notice - and a similar plan has worked in the UK.

"The COVID patients who wind up in ICU, obviously have respiratory problems and major problems with the oxygen levels, but they're not like a patient who has just come through a highly traumatic motor vehicle accident with multiple broken bones, organ damage, traumatic brain injury. The British intensive care specialists were saying the surge trained nurses are enough," he said.

"Here's the other thing too, actually, once we get to the vaccination levels, once restrictions reduce and there will be continued Covid infection the real game in town is not what happens in hospitals and ICUs, it's what happens in the community. Most people who get infected with Covid in the months ahead will be cared for at home or in the community and what keeps me awake at night is making sure that we're supporting our GPS and our community care clinics to make sure that they're supporting people."

Little also said he's not sure bringing in a vaccination mandate into the health sector will cause shortages, after concern from midwives some pregnant people could be caught short.

"It's not a certainty that it [the mandate] will lead to shortages. For those who are hesitant there is an opportunity to get more and better information," he said.

"And with the professional organisations they are part of and health authorities I'm confident that we'll get through this."