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Coronavirus: 140,000 locals to be infected in six months

TEMPORARY respiratory clinics will be established across the Gold Coast in the next week as health bosses brace for 27,000 coronavirus sufferers to receive hospital treatment in the next six months.

Of those, authorities were preparing for about 8000 to need intensive care.

The Federal Government's top doctor on the Gold Coast has unveiled the stark reality for the Glitter Strip not to cause hysteria, but for people to get serious about the virus spread and follow professional guidelines.

Gold Coast Primary Health Network (PHN) board chair Dr Roger Halliwell said authorities were preparing for at least a quarter of Gold Coasters - about 140,000 people - to be infected by COVID-19 by the end of September.

There have been 91 coronavirus cases detected on the Gold Coast since January 29 and 493 cases state wide. Queensland has reported two deaths to date.

 

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Gold Coast Primary Health Network (PHN) board chair Dr Roger Halliwell.
Gold Coast Primary Health Network (PHN) board chair Dr Roger Halliwell.

Dr Halliwell said anyone doubting the need to "flatten the curve" was "dreaming" and it was essential to slow the spread so that services were not saturated in one hit.

"We know from other parts of the world, China, Italy, Spain and the US, that this is spreading like wildfire," he said.

"Essentially, it is about spreading the 8000 serious cases across a broader amount of time, so we can treat them at the level we want to treat them.

"We have a much better chance of avoiding bad outcomes than if we get the whole lot in the next month.

"Patients are not all experiencing this as a mild illness, there have been more than 22,000 deaths so far worldwide.

"People die of this. A 25 per cent infection rate is considered by most people to be very conservative, this will only occur if people follow through on social distancing."

State Chief Medical Officer Jeannette Young last week confirmed the Government was preparing hospitals for a quarter of the population to contract the disease.

"For the vast majority of people this is going to be a really mild disease," Dr Young said.

"But for 20 per cent of them it is going to be severe, and for some of them is going to be critical.

"They're the numbers we're preparing for in our hospital system, to make sure we can give them the care they need."

The iconic tourist hotspot of Surfers Paradise beach was quieter than usual but locals continue to venture out despite government warnings. Picture: Nigel Hallett.
The iconic tourist hotspot of Surfers Paradise beach was quieter than usual but locals continue to venture out despite government warnings. Picture: Nigel Hallett.

On current projections, Dr Halliwell said roughly 19,000 infected locals would need to be admitted to hospital. On top of that, 8000 may require admission to intensive care (need the use of a ventilator).

The city's two public hospitals have 1245 funded beds, which include 77 mental health beds, 73 emergency department bays, 36 paediatric beds and 27 maternity beds.

A further $1.2 billion in health funding was announced by the State Government this week in order to grow capacity to meet demand.

 

Dr Halliwell said the Gold Coast's three proposed pop-up respiratory clinics funded by the Australian Government's PHN will complement the state efforts to treat coronavirus patients, as one of a number of practical measures.

"The clinics are designed to see patients who might fit the criteria of COVID-19, to divert patients away from general practice and the rest of the population," he said.

"Three of them will be set up fairly rapidly and we have already identified the space for two of them.

"One will be in the southern part of the Gold Coast while the other in the north.

"We will work closely with the HHS to take all comers and put together a proper assessment of each individual."

Dr Halliwell said the halt on non-urgent elective surgery this week would free up hospital capacity.

"We are likely to see wards usually used for orthopaedics or other conditions turned into units for patients with COVID-19."

A deserted Gold Coast Airport as travel bans roll into place.
A deserted Gold Coast Airport as travel bans roll into place.

A Queensland Health spokesman said the state was prepared for the next six months.

"Every element of the detailed planning, preparation and world-leading testing rates Queensland Health has undertaken is aimed at protecting our people from COVID-19," the spokesman said.

"It's this co-operation between our community and our healthcare networks that will help us prevent the worst case modelling of COVID-19 in Queensland.

"But this is serious, and we are preparing for a range of scenarios.

"Our hardworking staff are ready to stand front and centre but we need the community to do its part in protecting themselves and each other."

Originally published as Coronavirus: 140,000 locals to be infected in six months