Hotels once used to quarantine Victoria’s returned travellers will soon be filled with Covid patients in a bid to ease pressure on hospitals.
It comes amid another spike in the number of Covid patients hospitalised across the state – 953 in total with 111 in intensive care and 29 on a ventilator.
The plan was discussed by Health Minister Martin Foley and acting chief health officer Ben Cowie last week and is expected to include patients on the cusp of hospital release.
However, Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said the scheme could be the clearest sign yet the state’s hospitals simply aren’t coping.
“If they still require care, they should be in a health facility and these hotels are not health facilities. That would basically be an admission the hospital systems are failing to cope,” he told The Age.
“That would be No. 1 a bad decision for those individuals, putting them at an increased risk of further problems, but also it would be a reflection of how serious the situation is in the hospitals.”
But infectious diseases physician Sanjaya Senanayake said the move was pragmatic and proved the system was working.
“It’s a very serious situation at the moment. But the system is working. And these are the measures, like getting people who have got Covid but don’t need that sort of acute level of care that you need in a hospital, getting them to another facility is a great idea,” Professor Senanayake told Today.
“We have seen medi-hotels used prior to pandemics for other reasons. So this will all help because this is a situation where we’ve got a virus that is highly transmissible, but, of course, doesn’t make people as sick as earlier variants, so we have an opportunity to use strategies like this.”
But despite any push back, explosive case numbers over the past week are set to ensure hospitalisations in Victoria will climb before infections peak within the next month.
Daniel Andrews revealed the grim reality Victoria faces if isolation orders are not strictly implemented earlier this week.
The Premier made the prediction during a coronavirus update, saying Victoria’s already under-pressure hospitals could quickly buckle.
“We have some people that are gravely ill, some people in intensive care, but the vast majority of people are in hospital and not requiring that sort of care,” he told reporters.
“If we were to stop isolating people, if we were to stop testing, if we were to let this rip, we’ll finish up not with hundreds of people in general wards, we would finish up with thousands, and we all know what that means.
It comes as minor restrictions were re-implemented in the state, with Australian Open crowds set to be slashed by a massive 50 per cent in a blow for tennis fans.
The Victorian government will enforce a limit on people attending the event, with crowds to be capped under updated Covid restrictions.
People who have already bought tickets will still be able to attend but all further sales will be limited.
Masks will also be enforced except when eating and drinking once the event commences on January 17.