The hospital system in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) is under challenge, as the state's new locally acquired COVID-19 cases soared to over 900 on Wednesday.
The Westmead Hospital, a major hospital in the worst-hit area of Sydney's current outbreak, said it is no longer operating in a business-as- usual environment and careful assessment and response is required to manage future demand for its services.
"Yesterday, Westmead Hospital emailed all staff declaring they are 'standing up an Emergency Operations Centre to support an internal disaster management response' due to the overwhelming amount of COVID cases at the facility," NSW Greens MP and health spokesperson Cate Faehrmann tweeted.
Faehrmann said internal communications sent to her by frustrated health workers showed that the state's public health system is "shockingly unprepared to cope with the current outbreak".
Local media Sydney Morning Herald also reported that the Westmead Hospital is conducting an urgent review of its critical care capacity, emergency department flow, COVID-19 wards and ambulance offloading.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard acknowledged on Wednesday's press conference that the health system is working under pressure.
"Westmead staff are managing about 1,500 patients in the community and about 121 staff are in their wards. There are about 23 currently in ICU. That is a pressure situation for them," he said.
"I'll stress that it isn't easy. Last week, Westmead Hospital had 280 patients who came in by ambulance with COVID. So about 40 ambulance deliveries a day with COVID."
He said the Westmead Hospital would work with private hospitals in the local area to ensure some patients are able to be looked after in the private hospital as well.
"I'm confident that we have maybe a system that is under pressure but a system that works," Hazzard said.
The situation came as NSW, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, recorded 919 new local cases on Wednesday, the biggest daily increase since Australia's COVID outbreak started early last year, and two deaths including a woman in her 30s and a man in his 80s.