Western NSW Local Health District moves to focus more on systemic impacts with less concentration on daily COVID-19 figures

Oberon Health Service
Oberon Health Service

FOCUS on infectious cases will start to shift from Monday, as Western NSW Local Health District moves away from the usual day-to-day reporting on COVID-19 figures.

Heading in the direction of "most important information", the health district will now prioritise the overall systemic impacts from COVID; such as pressures to the health system and strain on frontline workers, including updates to vaccination rates and booster shots.

Western NSW LHD's Chief Executive, Mark Spittal said progressive changes will begin to take effect from January 24.

"Changes will be made progressively over the coming weeks as we move forward through the pandemic, to focus on the most practical and important messages for the community," Mr Spittal said.

"We want to show the daily impact COVID-19 is having on our staff and hospitals, as well as focus on the uptake of vaccines in the 5-11 age bracket and booster shots - we know these figures are important to our communities."

Daily figures on infections Mr Spittal said essentially "just reflect on what is happening in the laboratory process", and are becoming somewhat of an outdated method in terms of useful information delivery.

"In previous phases of the pandemic they were useful, but now [that] the Omicron variant is in most of our communities, they are not the best indicator of risk anymore," he said.

While vaccination coverage across the Western LHD remains extremely high, it's also a little trickier to pinpoint case numbers; with the chance of undetected (and undiagnosed) infections in the community rated as "incredibly likely."

In previous phases of the pandemic they were useful, but now [that] the Omicron variant is in most of our communities, they are not the best indicator of risk anymore.

Chief Executive Officer for Western NSW LHD, Mark Spittal

"Put simply, COVID-19 is everywhere," Mr Spittal said.

"And that's why we have consistently been encouraging everyone to take sensible precautions all the time, rather than using the number of new cases identified on any given day as a catalyst to be COVID-safe."

Cases identified, both by PCR and RAT methods, will remain readily available on the NSW Health website - including the Service NSW app - and will be broken down according to area for easy access of data as ongoing.

Though, with the new shift-in-focus, hospitalisations will also take more of a spotlight, which will include specific services under pressure, general COVID-safe information, and any relevant impacts to the health workforce.

"We need to focus on the number of people in hospital across the district," Mr Spittal said.

"Because it shows not just the impact of COVID-19 on health services, but also the consequence of not being COVID-safe.

"Regardless of why people are in hospital, if they have COVID-19, their care requires significantly more resource; and the wider impact of COVID-19 can place services under pressure.

The wait for non-elective surgeries was also acknowledged in Mr Spittal's address to the community, with the intent to return to business as usual not forgotten.

"The impact on people who need non-urgent elective surgery is absolutely real," he said.

"We are determined to get surgery back to being fully operational, as soon as the need for capacity for COVID-19 care subsides."

Mr Spittal also urged communities to remain vigilant with personal COVID-safe planning strategies, which will aid health services to cope better in the gradual lead-up to resuming with normal health service regimes.

" ... the reality is, the more we do as individuals and as a community to stay COVD-safe, the more we'll help reduce the impact on health services," he said.

Regardless of why people are in hospital, if they have COVID-19, their care requires significantly more resource; and the wider impact of COVID-19 can place services under pressure.

Chief Executive Officer for Western NSW LHD, Mark Spittal

"We need our health services and workforce there for everyone, not just COVID-19 patients; that's particularly relevant as summer ends and enter colder months, when we typically have an upswing in demand."

Moreover, the chief executive recommended the highest level of community support to be in the form of vaccinations, with Mr Spittal suggesting jabs for household members across the board.

"The best way for our communities to help is to get vaccinated as soon as possible," he said.

"Get the kids vaccinated now they are eligible, and get your booster shot as soon as you can."

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