Media release

Flu, COVID affecting elective surgery

Increasing hospitalisations from COVID and flu are hitting elective surgery waiting lists, Dr Emilia Dauway, AMA Queensland Vice President and Surgical Wait List Roundtable chair, told Today Extra. "We have 500 people hospitalised currently and that's putting extreme pressure on our hospitals ... we can't do hernia, gallbladder surgeries or knee replacement surgeries if we don't have bed capacity."

Transcript: AMA Queensland Vice President, Dr Emilia Dauway, Today Extra with Richard Wilkins and Sylvia Jeffreys, Monday 8 July 2024

Subject: COVID and flu hospitalisations and impact on elective surgery

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Making news this morning, medical centres are bracing for a surge in flu cases, with students returning to Queensland schools this week. An average of 20 children are being admitted to hospital each day across the state, and that's on track to rise to above 50.

RICHARD WILKINS: Meantime, in Sydney, two urgent care clinics will open in an effort to ease pressures on emergency departments. For more on this, we're joined by Vice President of AMA Queensland, Dr Emilia Dauway, who is live in Queensland, in Brisbane for us this morning. Emilia, thank you for coming on the show today. Is it worse than we've seen in previous years?

DR EMILIA DAUWAY: Well, actually, in terms of COVID and the flu, it's pretty stable in comparison to previous years. But we are seeing a significant increase in RSV and whooping cough. And as you mentioned, we've seen 20 kids per day hospitalised in Queensland, which is really concerning, especially with school sessions back starting today.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Health authorities are urging parents to have their kids vaccinated. How much of a difference does the flu vaccine make?

DR EMILIA DAUWAY: It makes a significant difference. What people don't understand is that vaccines help to reduce the chances of you contracting the disease, but it also reduces the severity of the disease. And so one of the things that AMA Queensland has done is we've advocated to have the government provide flu vaccinations for all Queenslanders that qualify from the age of six months onwards to have free vaccinations. That means you can go to your local pharmacy, you can go to your GP and get a flu vaccination for free.

RICHARD WILKINS: Okay, we know the flu can be dangerous for older people, but there's a rising number of kids being admitted to hospitals. Is that right?

DR EMILIA DAUWAY: Absolutely. So as we said previously, 20 children per day are being admitted. But also we had 120 babies. Obviously babies don't qualify for vaccines. So it's important for adults to be vaccinated so that we can reduce the chances of our babies, our most vulnerable members of our community, our grandparents, the elderly, as well as those who have medical conditions that cause their immune system to be compromised. So it's important for all of us really to be vaccinated if we can.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Well, and then there's the pressure it's putting on the healthcare system. How heavy is that load at the moment?

DR EMILIA DAUWAY: Well, last month we had, between just COVID and the flu, we had 5,000 cases in Queensland and we have 500 people that are hospitalised currently. So that's putting extreme pressure on our hospitals and particularly our emergency departments. And what we don't realise is when we ask the question why we can't do elective surgery, this compounds that problem as well. We can't do hernia, gallbladder surgeries or knee replacement surgeries. So the things that hospitals want to do in terms of our service capacity, if we don't have bed capacity, are significantly reduced and compromised.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Yeah, especially when it comes to kids, we want to keep as many of them out of hospital as possible. Dr Emilia Dauway, we appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.

DR EMILIA DAUWAY: Thanks, Richard and Sylvia.

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