Tasmanian public health officials are closely monitoring how health systems on the mainland and internationally cope with Delta hospitalisations, with a view that COVID will eventually become "established as another virus" in the community.
A budget estimates hearing on Monday was told of Tasmania's ICU bed, ventilation and staffing capacity, as well as protocols for outbreaks in certain areas.
Tasmania currently has 60 ICU beds in the public and private hospital systems, which can be increased to 80 under intensive care guidelines. A further 34 critical care beds can be provided.
The state has 267 ventilators, and a further 100 could be added under an arrangement with the Commonwealth if required.
Health Department secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks highlighted the overnight NSW situation by way of comparison, where 175 people were in ICU and 72 ventilated, with 20,000 cases since the outbreak started.
She said greater ventilator capacity was added in Tasmania since the North-West outbreak in 2020, and older ventilators were replaced with improved equipment.
But there were a range of factors at play.
"It does depends on the rate at which Tasmanians are vaccinated, which is obviously changing on a day-to-day basis, but we can make some assumptions," Ms Morgan-Wicks said.
"It is about the beds that are available and the staff which is, on a ventilator patient, one registered nurse per patient, three shifts a day, et cetera, to maintain a 24/7 operation.
"All of our four hospitals have emergency escalation management plans, they are based off triggers of how many COVID cases are in the environment, how many tests are being undertaken, et cetera.
"They make the hospitals - at different escalation points - configure to take what is the load that is turning up to each hospital point. The hospitals will look quite different in a sustained COVID outbreak to what they look like today."
UK gives example of possible Tasmanian case estimates
The United Kingdom's decision to largely return to pre-COVID levels of human movement with about 80 per cent two-dose vaccination levels provided an indication of how many people could be hospitalised under similar settings in Tasmania.
Director of Public Health, Dr Mark Veitch, used the example the extrapolate for Tasmania.
He noted that the UK was seeing 30,000 cases per day, at about 40 cases per 100,000 people.
"That would be equivalent to be seeing a couple of hundred a day in a place the size of Tasmania," Dr Veitch said.
"I think over the coming months we will be able to look to the examples from other countries, as well as the modelling, we'll be able to think about how that information applies to Tasmania, because Tasmania doesn't have the same population mix or distribution as the UK.
"We have our own relatively spread out demography, which may be a natural advantage that we have, that we don't have the crowding which may make the spread slower and more controllable."
During estimates, Dr Veitch said there was an assumption that COVID would eventually become established "as another virus in our community".
How rural, regional areas would respond to COVID
Public Health does not intend to use district hospitals to care for COVID-positive patients, chief medical officer Tony Lawler said.
"We recognise that many of these district hospitals also have co-located aged care facilities so there is obviously the element wherein there would be exposure to a vulnerable group," he said.
"We have very clearly developed and also tested protocols with Ambulance Tasmania for the transfer of patients from one place to another."
The destination for each COVID-positive patient would be determined based on the capacity for each larger hospital, the number of people ventilated and the presence of COVID in that community.
The University of Tasmania's Fountainside Hotel in Hobart has been used as a case management facility during COVID for patients yet to require hospitalisation, but had "potential for deterioration", to keep them close to medical facilities.
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