Last week the government released its COVID-19 Health Care Plan, designed to manage the onset of the coronavirus in Tasmania once borders reopen on December 15.
The plan provided a tiered approach to managing coronavirus patients, and outlined the number of COVID-specific beds that would be available at the Launceston General Hospital, under surge conditions.
The plan outlined the number of ventilators available in the state by region, as well as 25 additional beds for low-risk patients through a community case management facility in Launceston, under the COVID at-home program.
Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said statewide the service would include about 20 staff, including nurses, GPs, social workers and administrative support staff.
When asked to confirm the number of staff allocated to the Launceston community case management facility, Mr Rockliff only said the facility was adequately staffed and could be increased if necessary.
Following the release of the health care plan, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Emily Shepherd called on the government to provide more clarity around how staff will be deployed if the state's COVID cases entered surge capacity.
"The ANMF has been constantly asking for this over the last week, what is the staffing strategy," she said.
She said a lack of clarity from the government had raised concerns within the ANMF over how units such as the ICU would be staffed if the LGH was to enter surge capacity.
"The ICU model is one to one, so one ICU nurse to one ventilated patient, and the reality is that according to the Kirby modelling, we have reservations that there would be sufficient numbers of intensive care train staff to be able to provide that level of care," she said.
"If we focus purely on the ICU-trained nurses to meet the Kirby modelling numbers, I think it would be very unlikely that we would be able to meet the ICU cases that are outlined in the Kirby modelling.
"They would have to call on other nurses within the system who also have some experience in dealing with patients receiving ventilation so they wouldn't necessarily be strictly an ICU nurse."
Australian Medical Association Tasmania president Dr Helen McArdle said, as with cases on the mainland, some hospital services would need to be drawn down to ensure enough staff were available to provide care in line with ICU standards.
"If we enter into that surge capacity, if we fully utilise our standard ICU beds and have to go into those surge beds we would have to draw staff from other areas," she said.
"It would mean reductions in other services because there's no other way you could manage it."
Dr McArdle said elective surgery and elective medical procedures would be among the first services to be restricted.
"Category one elective surgery has to continue which is cancer and things like that, but the category two and three elective surgeries are usually put on hold to release both beds and staff," she said.
"Other elective medical procedures that aren't elective surgery would also then be restricted."
Dr McArdle said the drawdown of non-critical procedures had occurred on the mainland when the need to bolster staff numbers for COVID patients arose.
Ms Shepherd said it was important for the government to be forthcoming with staffing information, not only for nurses but so the public could understand how services in the region would be affected.
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