Relying on flex capacity beds this flu season will put more pressure on an "already slim" work force, according to health unions.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation are calling for flex capacity beds at Launceston General Hospital to be opened on a permanent basis during winter.
It comes after the state government's Winter Demand Management Plan revealed no new beds would be provided for the LGH to cope with increased demand.
ANMF Tasmania executive director Andrew Brakey said opening the beds for a fixed period would ensure the hospital had staff rostered on to meet demand.
"When they say continued flex capacity, it means they will open those beds if they need it," he said.
"It's such short notice, we would be concerned that you are not going to be able to find the staff.
"That means the staff in those areas where the flex beds are opening, will end up on overtime and double shifts just to make sure those beds can be opened and they can take the pressure off the emergency department.
"We would like to see the beds opened on a permanent basis for winter, not just flexing-up."
There have already been 801 reported influenza cased in Tasmania this year, compared to 452 for the whole of 2018.
While flu season usually starts around June, between January and April 2019 the number of influenza tests being conducted statewide was twice as high as the same period in 2018.
While the 2019 winter plan will facilitate the use of an eight-bed acute medical unit at the North West Regional Hospital and 12 Hospital in the Home mental health beds in Hobart, the plan only prescribed continued flex capacity in day stay beds for the LGH.
Responding to the ANMF's requests, Health Minster Michael Ferguson said the government had reopened Ward 4D at LGH, after it was closed by the previous Labor government.
"This has enabled the staffing of 24 permanent beds on the ward, and hospital staff are empowered to open the remaining beds as flex beds in periods of higher demand," Mr Ferguson said.
Influenza in Tasmania, so far this year
Between 10 and 20 per cent of Tasmanians are estimated to catch the flu each year.
While laboratory confirmed cases of flu are notified to Public Health Services, this represents only a fraction of all flu cases in the community.
During winter 2018, more than 40,400 people presented to a hospital emergency department statewide, with 771 cases of flu or flu-like illness.
So far in 2019, there were 681 influenza notifications in Tasmania between January 1 and April 30, peaking in the second week of April.
Of these, 550 cases or 82 per cent were reported in the state's South, with 74 or 11 per cent in the North and 43 cases or 6 per cent in the North-West.
Flu vaccinations are required each year, as flu immunity is short lived and the mix of influenza viruses changes each year.
About 100,000 vaccination doses are provided free to vulnerable Tasmanians under the National Immunisation Program.
Free vaccine is available through General Practitioners for the following people:
- All children aged from six months to under five years (state funded)
- All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
- Adults aged 65 and over
- Pregnant women at any stage in their pregnancy
- Adults and children aged from 6 months with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, liver or kidney diseases, asthma, diabetes, cancer, impaired immunity and neuromuscular conditions
Under the state government's Winder Demand Management Plan, authorised Tasmanian pharmacist immunisers can provide private prescription flu vaccine to healthy people aged 10 years and over in approved pharmacies.
For more information visit FluTas.