At the opening of a mobile vaccination bus in September, Counties Manukau Health chief executive Margie Apa said the hospital had already been working hard to increase its capacity for Covid patients.
“We have done quite a lot of preparatory work to increase our ICU [intensive care unit] and high-dependency units,” she said.
“But what that does do is take bed stock out of being able to look after the rest of our non-Covid patients.”
According to a DHB spokesperson, the hospital has 18 intensive care unit beds, seven high dependency unit beds and a special respiratory ward for Covid patients.
It is also planning how to increase “hospital capacity to care for all patients in a safe way”.
“Middlemore Hospital has been the epicentre of the Covid-19 Delta outbreak with more than 1000 cases since the pandemic began in the Counties Manukau region.
The team’s experience is now being applied to how services and patient care will be provided in the future.”
A medical specialist familiar with Middlemore Hospital and its intensive care unit says given what the modelling shows and the hospital’s capacity, the implications for South Aucklanders with pre-existing conditions are “very serious”.
“When a person goes into intensive care with Covid, they can spend up to 16 hours a day lying on their stomachs and are spending between four to six weeks in there. If every week you get just a tenth of hospitalisations going into ICU, you’re still going to get pretty overwhelmed pretty quickly.”
He says an increase in Covid-related deaths is “a reasonable assumption to make, and there will also be a lot of people just suffering, as they are unable to get the relief they were hoping to get from other interventions that had been planned but will be delayed".
Opening the vaccination rollout to all Māori and Pacific people from the start, and having it led by South Auckland providers, was the only way for the current scenario to have been avoided, he says.
“The people of South Auckland have borne the brunt of so much for so long, and you have to think they have been let down. They should have been listening to people on the ground but it seems they never learn.”