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SA waiting for COVID case surge modelling

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UPDATED: Health Minister Stephen Wade has denied South Australia could report up to 4000 active COVID-19 cases once borders reopen, saying commissioned modelling on the state’s projected caseload is at least one week away from being delivered.

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It comes as the State Government ramps up planning to deal with an expected surge in cases once the delta strain enters the state, with Wade joining Premier Steven Marshall this morning to announce 93 new beds across the Modbury Hospital, Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre and the Repat on top of 107 additional beds announced over the weekend.

In evidence to a parliamentary committee on Monday, SA Health chief executive Dr Chris McGowan said the Government was planning for a “threshold” of up to three to four thousand active cases in South Australia once borders reopen.

He said about five per cent of those case would require hospitalisation, meaning the state needed to find about 300 additional beds.

But Wade told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that those numbers were based on “a simple arithmetic extrapolation from the New South Wales figures” and South Australia would likely experience a different “pathway” to the eastern state, which yesterday reported 711 COVID-19 hospitalisations.

“When the COVID outbreak in New South Wales started in the middle of June, there was only five per cent double vaccination in that state,” he said.

“We’re currently more than 50 (per cent double vaccinated) … so that means that we’ve got 10 times the level of vaccination in our community.

“We know that people who are vaccinated are less likely to catch the disease, they’re less likely to suffer significant health impacts from it, they’re less likely to transmit it.

“The pathway for South Australia will be very different to the pathway for New South Wales.”

SA Health has commissioned the Doherty Institute to carry out modelling on South Australia’s likely caseload.

Wade said that modelling “should be available in a week or two”, but for now, SA Health was basing its planning on a “working figure” of requiring about 300 additional beds.

“We’ve already announced plans for 107 beds, this is another 93 beds, there are more beds coming,” he said.

“I am very confident that we will have all the beds that we need to deal with whatever COVID brings.”

The Government spruiked today’s announcement of 93 additional beds as part of a $123 million boost to the state’s health system, but Wade was unable to say how many more hospital staff would be recruited to service the beds.

The extra beds include 46 at the Modbury Hospital, 38 at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre and nine at the Repat Health Precinct.

But Australian Medical Association state branch president Dr Michelle Atchison said “this won’t actually help with the COVID surge that’s coming”.

“These are beds that are going to be used anyway by need that we have right at the present,” she said.

“This morning Steven Wade said these are going to be sub-acute beds, so my take on that is these new beds will be used for patients who are already in the public system who are NDIS recipients or people… in aged care beds.

“My take on that as the AMA is that those beds will then be sucked up by the need that we actually have at the moment for our hospital system, which is running as everyone knows at 100 per cent capacity everyday and needs some extra capacity.”

Atchison said if South Australia does record 4000 active COVID cases a day, it would require about 200 coronavirus patient beds each day.

“We don’t have the capacity for that at the moment – we need to build that capacity,” she said.

“We can’t afford to be not adequately prepared – we’ve seen what’s happened in Victoria, we’ve seen what’s happened in New South Wales with their health systems.”

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters that “further announcements” would be made over the coming days regarding the Government’s plans to ensure South Australia is “COVID-ready”.

It comes as the Government faces increasing pressure to reveal what restrictions will be lifted once 80 per cent of the state is fully vaccinated.

Marshall repeated his pledge to open South Australia’s borders to other states before Christmas, but he said there was “still much more work to be done on exactly and precisely what the testing regime will be as people come across the borders”.

He said South Australia would increase its cap on international arrivals from 265 to 530 once 70 per cent of the state is double-vaccinated.

Latest federal government data shows 74 per cent of South Australians are at least partially vaccinated, while 56.2 per cent are doubled-dosed.

Wade said South Australia was entering a “crucial time” in its pandemic response as it prepared to open up its borders.

“In the next six to eight weeks if we have an outbreak we face the prospect of a devastating statewide lockdown – let’s be clear about that,” he said.

“The vaccination program needs to be significantly increased before we can rule out the possibility of statewide lockdowns and statewide lockouts.”

It comes as Victoria today reported a new national record of 2297 locally-acquired cases and 11 deaths.

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