Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was disappointed that a small percentage of health workers refused to be vaccinated.
“Every frontline health worker is invaluable. It is sad and unfortunate that a very small number of staff, out of more than 170,000 healthcare staff, refused to be vaccinated and therefore could not continue to care for patients,” said Mr. .Hazzard.
“The risk factor for patients and other staff has always been the issue and the reality is that 99.4% of staff have been vaccinated and should not be put at risk by having to work with people who have made a decision that is their right, but not one that is desirable in the healthcare community.
Although NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said up to half the population could get Omicron, Mr Perrottet remained convinced there was no alternative but to ‘pass through” and to accept the presence of the virus.
Mr Perrottet said this week he was confident children would be back in classrooms for the start of the first term, but a return-to-school plan has yet to be unveiled, with pupils ahead come back in less than two weeks. NSW teachers and childcare workers are so far not included on the worker exemption list.
“What I will say is that children will return to school from day one, in the first term, in a safe environment for teachers and for students. This is our number one goal,” he said.
Mr Perrottet said NSW was working closely with Victoria to develop its back-to-school plan, which will be announced next week. While he was confident the state would soon have an adequate supply of rapid antigen tests before schools returned, he said the government had yet to determine how they would be used.
A large amount of rapid testing is expected to arrive over four days next week, he said.
There were 2,527 coronavirus patients in hospital with the virus on Friday, including 185 in intensive care. While less than 5% of people are unvaccinated in NSW, unvaccinated people make up 50% of those in intensive care.
Modeling released by NSW Health last week estimated that the state would hit a peak of 4,700 COVID-positive hospitalizations by the end of January and, in this scenario, 273 patients would be in intensive care.
But a severe shortage of nurses and doctors, with thousands of healthcare workers sick or in isolation, has forced NSW Health to mobilize a surge in the workforce, including moving administrative staff who are normally attached to hospital departments, asking internal doctors to start work before planning and accelerating nursing graduates in hospitals.
the Herald understands that, if ICU admissions approach 1,000, ICU wards in private hospitals would be used to meet the demand.
A senior doctor at Westmead Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said around 15 per cent of hospital staff were unable to work each day due to illness or isolation .
“Staff leave and the need to separate COVID-19 patients from others has become incredibly difficult,” the doctor said. “Every shift. the beds are closed because the staff is absent. There has been a serious underestimation of how the spread of the virus would wipe out large numbers of doctors and nurses. On top of that, some hospitals are struggling to get rapid tests. »
A further 63,018 cases were reported on Friday, with at least 9,000 reported in Sydney’s South West and West. Mr Perrottet said that, despite pressures from the health system, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions were lower than projections from modeling released last week.
Dr. Chant estimated that while up to half of the state’s population could get Omicron, not everyone would have a symptomatic infection or even know they were infected.
“There are still people who have not experienced or been exposed to Omicron,” Dr Chant said, noting that it was vital that as many people as possible received three doses of a vaccine before being exposed. .
Around 1.5 million people in New South Wales have received a booster shot, around 20 of the population aged over 18.
On day two, positive rapid antigen tests were included in the state’s daily infection count, Friday’s new recorded infections included 37,938 that were self-reported from home testing and 25,080 from testing PCR.
Mr Perrottet said more than 40% of the eligible population had received a booster shot.
Approximately 63,800 children aged 5 to 11 received a first dose, representing just under 9% of the population in this age group.
“It’s incredibly nice to see that [booster] efforts continued, especially during the summer holidays when many people were on vacation; to be in a position today where over 40% of people have received their reminder is incredibly encouraging,” Mr. Perrottet said.
A NSW healthcare worker not authorized to speak publicly said he was happy to see the government decide to lay off unvaccinated staff.
“If you are a healthcare worker and you don’t believe in COVID-19 vaccines and evidence-based practices, then good riddance,” they said.
With Nigel Gladstone
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