Top Royal Melbourne Hospital doctor’s dire warning ahead of flu season
A top doctor at one of Australia’s busiest hospitals has warned of impending emergency chaos as the department battles both mounting Covid cases and flu infections.
Director of emergency at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Associate Professor Mark Putland made the prediction on Friday, just hours after Victoria’s ambulances were forced to declare code red due to dire staffing shortages.
“The demand is higher than its ever been,” he told 3AW.
“We and all hospitals around Victoria are really hampered by lack of access to beds.”
Dr Putland said the surge in both flu and Covid cases are resulting in thousands of daily cases, many of which are seeping into the hospital system.
“What worries me is time of year that we’re in — the end of autumn — that we’re already in this state,” he said.
“It is a concern for how the winter is going to play out.”
There have been a total of 14,371 detected influenza infections in Victoria already this year, figure which dwarfs cases in 2021, 2020 and 2019.
Dr Putland’s warning comes after Victoria’s ambulance service was forced to declare another code red as it once again buckles under pressure.
The warning was issued just after 1am on Friday morning and lasted for more than an hour.
A code red involves people being told not call an ambulance unless they are in a serious emergency and instead make their own way to hospital.
On Friday morning, Melburnians were advised to contact nurses on call for medical assistance.
Victorian Ambulance Union general secretary Danny Hill said the chaos resulted in dozens of calls for assistance left temporarily not responded to.
“There were 70 cases pending, which meant 70 cases had called triple-0 because they required an ambulance but one was not available to assist,” he said.
“Because of this they have to wait in a queue and at that point, that’s when the system crashed and they had to resort to a manual system and declare a code red.
“(Ambulance Victoria) also had to call in extra queues and get other crews to come and cover shifts so it was eventually again brought under control.”
Ambulance Victoria responded to 93,234 code 1 incidents during the first three months of 2022, a 14.2 per cent increase on the same time last year.
The latest woes come after a horror year for the state’s medical services due to staffing shortages hampered by constant Covid outbreaks.
In January, a code red was declared for the second time in a week as services were stretched desperately thin across the city.
More than 500 Ambulance Victoria staff were furloughed at the time, with SES and Lifesaving Victoria used to help keep up with demand.
Originally published as Top Royal Melbourne Hospital doctor’s dire warning ahead of flu season
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails