Mirror Article 27/10

It was fabulous to see all the joy in people at the end of lockdown in Melbourne. Our city friends have endured onerous restrictions for so long and many will never recover from the hardships that the lockdown caused. Overall their (and our) adherence to the rules have bought us time, allowing vaccinations to reach the percentages deemed safe to open up, and for that we are grateful. And how good was it to finally welcome visitors back into our homes!

As mentioned in previous articles and as is being widely reported now, the health industry is now under the pump and it is predicted that this will worsen considerably before it gets better. Locally we are expecting this. As the report from the hospital mentions, in preparation for the expected surge in local cases theatre has been temporarily cut back (mirroring what has happened in town) and bed numbers will be carefully monitored. On current projections Traralgon Hospital (our immediate feeder hospital for local COVID patients) may be at capacity within 2-3 weeks. The flow on effect of that might mean that local patients, who may have in the past have been looked after in SGH, if safe will need to be looked after at home instead; patients who may have usually stayed a few days longer, if safe will be discharged earlier, to the care of family and friends (and hospital outpatient services).

Vaccination rates locally remain excellent. The 3960 postcode at time of writing has a 95-100% first dose and 85-90% second dose coverage, and neighbouring post codes are not far behind. We have given about 11,000 vaccinations, with 5100 fully vaxed and about 800 partially vaxed. Our successful Saturday morning clinics have been put (temporarily?) to rest and vaccinations are now all in normal clinic hours.

Third doses of the primary vaccination schedule are available for a select group of patients who are deemed to be significantly immunocompromised to require an additional dose to build up sufficient immunity. Check the statement from ATAGI here….

www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-the-use-of-a-3rd-primary-dose-of-covid-19-vaccine-in-individuals-who-are-severely-immunocompromised (or, more simply, enter ‘ATAGI third dose recommendations’) if you feel you may qualify, or speak to your doctor.

The recommended time for a third dose is 2-6 months after the second dose.

We are frequently asked about booster shots (quite different to third doses) and overseas experience suggests it is only a question of when, not if. It is expected that we will have more information soon (it has been promised for awhile) but similar to the rollout, those in the front line who were immunised first are likely to be offered boosters first also. But until then we have no knowledge on ‘how often’, ‘which ones’, etc.

Local COVID rates at time of writing are low (24 active, 7 new in the previous 24 hours, with >75 close contacts in South Gippsland) but will undoubtedly increase. Now more than ever, be reminded of the absolute necessity to get tested early if you develop any symptoms, even if you are double vaccinated. And if you haven’t got vaccinated yet, please reassess. Talk to a doctor. There is a horrible amount of misinformation, conspiracy theories and supposedly expert opinions doing the social media rounds which contribute to the confusion and fear we see and hear in patients. 

We are all working towards the common goal of living safely with this new virus, where it eventually causes only minimal disruptions to our health, workplaces and lifestyles.

(Dr Phil Worboys)

South Gippsland Hospital 

We are anticipating that the reported increased demand on the health system will be felt for some time, as restrictions ease and more cases of COVID-19 exist in our community.  

SGH will continue to work with Bass Coast Health, Latrobe Regional Hospital and our health precinct partners Foster Medical Centre and Prom Country Aged Care, to ensure our response is coordinated and united.

With this in mind, SGH will have an important role to play over the next couple of months and as such we will need to make some short term changes to protect our staff, patients and our community during this period.

You’ll soon see a temporary reduction of the number of elective surgery sessions, expansion of our district nursing services and additional staff on the ward. Regrettably, we will also need to restrict visitors once again with visiting times reduced to two hour blocks, twice a day for permitted reasons only from tomorrow (see our website).

As soon as we are able to resume business as usual, we will. 

Thank you for your ongoing understanding and your cooperation during these challenging times. 

(Paul Greenhalgh