A senior intensive care nurse described Victorian patients “begging” to be vaccinated before being put on life support.
- Royal Melbourne Hospital nurse Michelle Spence said her patients included otherwise fit and healthy young people
- Only 5% of people in Victorian hospitals with COVID-19 are fully vaccinated
- Northern Hospital nurse Jacqui Harper says many nurses suffer from burnout
Michelle Spence, head of the intensive care nursing unit at Royal Melbourne Hospital, was visibly moved as she detailed the deterioration of fit and healthy people after contracting COVID-19.
“One of the saddest things I’ve seen over the past few weeks is people wanting to get the shot right before we put them on life support,” she said.
“This is the absolute truth. I saw it myself. They are begging for the vaccination.
“They’re very young. And once we get there we’re about to put them on life support, it’s really too late.”
Speaking during the daily state coronavirus update, Ms Spence said she has seen people die alone in intensive care.
“And that is absolutely not what it should be. Loved ones deserve to have their families with them when they die.”
Ms Spence said she ruled healthy and healthy people ended up in intensive care, including a shopkeeper in his 30s.
“The only thing I can tell you that would have changed, and again, it is my opinion, I saw him at the end of the bed, it is the fact that he was not vaccinated,” he said. she declared.
Jacqui Harper, head of the nursing unit at Northern Hospital in Epping, said the patients she saw entering the hospital were “seriously, seriously ill”.
“The clinical deterioration is so sudden. One minute, sitting in a chair, one hour later they could say goodbye,” she said.
“They have trouble breathing, with some needing high levels of oxygen, ventilators and intensive care.
The Northern Hospital, where Ms Harper works, is located in Epping, one of Melbourne’s hardest-hit suburbs.
The huge demand and pressure on the hospital’s emergency department has resulted in the formation of large ambulance queues during peak periods, a problem called ramp-up, causing delays in the network of ‘ambulances.
“Being a nurse right now? Very difficult. Very difficult when the community is not getting vaccinated,” Ms. Harper said.
“We have to do all of these other things. We have to do the orthopedic trauma that comes up. All the other cases that we get as well.
“… And being in this epicenter, it’s been hard.
Caregivers “worried about the next few months”
There are 476 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across Victoria, including 98 in intensive care, including 57 people on ventilators.
Among those hospitalized on Saturday, only 5% were fully vaccinated.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were 12 adolescent patients in the hospital, none of whom were fully vaccinated. Of the 22 patients in their twenties, only one was fully vaccinated.
There were 64 patients in their 30s, only one of whom was fully vaccinated, and 60 patients in their 40s, none of whom were fully vaccinated.
Victoria had another record number of daily cases this weekend. And the number of new infections is expected to continue to rise until a peak later this month.
This peak is expected to occur around the same time the state meets the goal of having 70 percent of the population aged 16 and over fully immunized.
Ms Spence said healthcare workers were bracing for the fact that when the blockages were lifted at this point it would be a great time for the community but the most difficult time for the health system.
Ms Spence and Ms Harper have said their respective departments are at or near full capacity.
Last year, the state government announced it would provide 4,000 additional intensive care beds across the state.
That promise was not kept, ministers and Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said there had not yet been a request to justify the beds.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy pushed the government to keep the beds promised.
“We will open beds as needed,” Andrews said on Sunday.
“Because intensive care beds are so precious, and because you don’t have an unlimited number of staff, we don’t open intensive care beds and then empty them, with a nurse at the foot of the bed waiting for a patient.”
He said the state was hoping and “working as hard as possible to have fewer patients, not more.”
Ms Spence said that at Royal Melbourne Hospital and across the state, staffing models were being changed and beds were being opened on a phased basis, as needed.
But she said if people were vaccinated and followed the lockdown restrictions, the state would not need the additional 4,000 beds.
Ms Harper said there would always be the challenge of burnout and fatigue affecting the workforce, and the possibility that the system could not cope.
“Because COVID is unpredictable. We don’t know what’s going to go down in the next minute,” she said.
“So we might not be coping, and we all have emotions too. So dealing with the challenges of people who can’t see their loved ones, holding hands with us on their last breath is difficult.
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