COVID cases, ambulance ramping continue to increase in SA

Weekly COVID-19 cases have once again increased, as Health Minister Chris Picton revealed South Australian ambulances spent almost 150 days ramped outside hospitals last month.

Dec 09, 2022, updated Dec 09, 2022
Ambulance ramping outside the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Ambulance ramping outside the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

This week, 9986 people in South Australia tested positive for COVID-19, 302 more than last week, with the number of infectious people in hospital also increasing from 128 to 164, including seven in intensive care.

SA Health this afternoon reported 35 more COVID deaths from people aged from their 60s to 90s, including three deaths in people aged under 70 years.

PCR testing dropped by eight per cent over the past week, with 4370 of the 24,347 tests returning positive results, on top of 5616 positive rapid antigen tests.

BA.5 and related variants continues to be the dominant COVID strain in South Australia, accounting for 60 per cent of analysed samples.

BA.2 and related variants accounted for 27 per cent of analysed samples, while no BA.4 was detected.

Health Minister Chris Picton said authorities had expected the current COVID wave to end quickly.

“It seems that that is still with us – we are still seeing persistent numbers of COVID cases in the community and that’s putting pressure on our emergency departments as well,” he said.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said it was likely COVID case numbers would fluctuate.

He said most people were “acting responsibly” by isolating if they developed symptoms.

“People who do get COVID are doing the right thing by and large and isolating at home,” he said.

“I think what we saw from the crowds at the Adelaide 500 and also… from the cricket is that people are looking forward to enjoying a summer that represents a degree of normality in South Australia.

“I think that’s a good thing. I just think it’s also important that people are reminded that if you do have COVID just to stay home while you have it.”

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It comes after Picton earlier this afternoon revealed ambulance ramping had increased over the past two months, with ambulances spending 3516 hours – the equivalent of 146 days – ramped outside hospitals in November, up from 3331 hours in October.

Ambulance ramping declined across Central Adelaide Local Health Network emergency departments, but it increased across Adelaide’s south.

Lyell McEwin Hospital emergency department upgrades also resulted in higher ambulance ramping figures across the Northern Local Health Network.

The government blames the latest COVID wave, including an increase in hospitalisations and furloughed hospital staff, for the ramping increase

It also pointed to a seven per cent increase in triple zero calls.

“We were very clear that we had a plan in terms of building over 300 beds across our system we’ve now upped that to more than 550 beds that we’re planning to build across the system and we’re working on that as soon as possible,” Picton said.

“That combined with hiring additional staff is what we ultimately need to address the ramping situation to make sure that people can get the care that they need and to make that those ambulances arrive on time.”

Opposition health spokesperson Ashton Hurn accused the government of releasing the ramping data on a Friday “in an effort to avoid scrutiny while many are enjoying the Adelaide Test”.

“South Australians deserve transparency and we should have seen this important and overdue ramping information released nine days ago,” she said.

The government today announced construction had started on a 26-bed Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM) unit at the Repat Hospital.

It said that all up, 32 additional beds would be delivered at the Repat – up from the 24 additional beds it initially promised.

The new GEM service is expected to open by mid-2024.

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