Ventilators rushed in as ICU staff watch cases surge

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New stocks of ventilators have arrived in Melbourne to boost specialists’ capacity to save the most critical COVID-19 patients.

Royal Melbourne Hospital this week took delivery of 22 new ventilators, which will bolster its intensive care units from 42 beds to 64 in the coming days.

The state-of-the-art breathing machines are among hundreds ordered by the Andrews Government in the early weeks of the pandemic, which are arriving amid mounting coronavirus hospital admissions and pressure on the state’s health system.

On Wednesday there were 40 Victorian COVID-19 patients in intensive care, including 10 at RMH.

But, with critical cases already building and hospitalisations following about 10 days behind the trend in overall coronavirus cases, RMH ICU nurse unit manager Michelle Spence said the new ventilators were vital in preparing for the coming weeks.

“They are ready to go,” Ms Spence said.

“We are currently running at 30 to 35 patients, and we could very quickly go up to 42 patients today.

“We are ready and within 24 to 48 hours we could have those next 22 beds set up. It gives us the opportunity to start expanding our service and that has been the plan since March.”

Fitted with internal filters rated to prevent 99.9 per cent of particles escaping into the atmosphere, Ms Spence said the breathing machines would protect staff from infection while also saving patients’ lives.

Although the intensive care workers watched the current surge in cases with alarm, Ms Spence said months of planning and acquiring equipment such as the ventilators and PPE had them fully prepared.

However, she warned ordinary Victorians were not following the stay-at-home rules as they did during the March peak, resulting in not only more COVID-19 cases, but in general trauma cases caused by people being out in the community.

“The staff are definitely fatigued a little bit in life,” she said. “But we are ready for this. We have been training and practising and getting staffing models since March.

“We are having concerns that people are not staying home seriously.

“Social distancing worked during the first wave of the virus in March however that is no longer happening.

“We need to have the beds ready so they don’t need to be full of people who are doing the silly things and being out there, but that is exactly what’s happening.”


Victorian MPs will be expected to wear masks when working in Canberra from Thursday.

While parliament has been cancelled for the start of August, staff and politicians who travel from Victoria to the ACT on exemptions should wear face coverings.

The Herald Sun can reveal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, in Canberra to deliver the budget update, will be expected to don a mask to and from the office, but not while speaking.

A Department of Health spokesman said anyone travelling from Victoria needed to wear a mask in case they had been exposed to COVID-19 and “they inadvertently become a risk to others”.

“Australians travelling from a state or territory where there is higher levels of community transmission compared to the state they have been granted permission to visit should follow the mask advice of the state they originated from,” the spokesman said.

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison cancelled the sitting fortnight at the start of August due to the Melbourne outbreak.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith and Senate president Scott Ryan on Wednesday agreed to Labor’s request for a working group to plan how and when parliament would sit.

They suggested the federal and ACT chief medical officers address the group to outline the risks that need to be mitigated.

Parliament is due to sit again at the end of August.

It’s understood the major parties could also consider new pairing arrangements so some Victorian MPs did not have to attend in person.


Coronavirus outbreaks at aged-care centres in Melbourne have continued to surge, with 383 cases and 13 deaths now linked to the vulnerable facilities.

Authorities are battling to contain multiple clusters as staff and residents contribute to the state’s rising infection figures.

St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner recorded 18 new cases on Wednesday, bringing that cluster to 69.

The chair of Australia’s peak multicultural body called for people to follow health guidelines at aged care homes to prevent further outbreaks.

Mary Petestos from the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia issued the plea following the outbreak at St Basil’s Home for the Aged.

Ms Petestos said the cluster at St Basil’s, which is under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, was a major concern.

“These are alarming numbers for the Greek community and we must prepare and be vigilant to avoid similar outbreaks elsewhere,” she said.

“The outbreak shows the need to reinforce guidelines, especially for those who are vulnerable or in contact with vulnerable people.”

There are now 54 infections linked to Estia Health in Ardeer, 37 to Glendale Aged Care in Werribee and 30 cases ­attributed to Arcare Aged Care in Craigieburn.

All 383 cases are spread across 45 sites.

Premier Daniel Andrews said work had begun to help ­facilities manage outbreaks.

“Aged care is a really challenging setting, particularly private sector aged care,” he said.

“Whether it’s face masks, cohorting workers or taking residents who can’t be appropriately cared for in place to a tertiary hospital. All of those steps. They will bring a sense of control.”

Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said it was vital people with symptoms stayed home.

“This is essential for everyone and especially for those working in settings with people who are most at risk,” he said.

— Kieran Rooney, Tamsin Rose and Josh Fagan





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