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ICU bed-to-patient ratio not enough if Delta cases increase, expert says

An ICU specialist is concerned about New Zealand's capacity to manage a significant number of Covid cases where hospitalisation is required. 

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Dr Rob Bevan, vice president of the College of Intensive Care, discusses whether our rate of five beds for 100,000 people will be enough. Source: 1 NEWS

Intensive care specialist Rob Bevan says even though New Zealand is well-prepared for a worst-case scenario of the current Covid outbreak, the current bed-to-patient ratio is not enough.

Bevan is the vice president of the College of Intensive Care and says the country has “a model of care that is world-leading" after spending the past 18 months working and learning from overseas colleagues who have “borne the brunt of the pandemic”.

He said specialists have been working with DHBs and the Health Ministry to “absolutely maximise our ability to look after as many people as we can, albeit “within the constraints of the capacity that we have”.

Bevan conceded that five beds for every 100,000 people would not be enough, meaning other life-saving surgeries would need to be cancelled.

“We are absolutely aware that our intensive care capacity needs to increase going forward,” he said, adding it would need a “sustained approach” across a number of areas.

He said if Delta numbers continue to rise, his colleagues are “very worried” – meaning teams would be stretched “thinner than they are now”.

Bevan said the best way of mitigating that scenario is to prevent numbers “exploding in the first place is by adhering to the current “public health measures”.

He said high vaccine uptake numbers are crucial.

“We are absolutely reliant on the vaccine uptake being as close to 100 per cent as it possibly can for eligible New Zealanders,” he said.

He added a first dose of the vaccine reduces the need for ICU care and the second dose reduces the need for any kind of hospital care.