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Alarming Surge in Hospital Acquired COVID Infections: A Spotlight on Australian Healthcare Crisis

The performance of the Australian healthcare system has come into sharp scrutiny recently, following an investigative report by ABC journalist Hayley Gleeson, unveiling distressing statistics about the increasing incidence of hospital-acquired COVID infections. Leveraging the Freedom of Information laws, Gleeson’s investigation has brought to light the alarming rate of patients in Victoria’s hospitals catching, and tragically succumbing to, COVID-19.

Over the past two years in Victoria, 6,212 patients have contracted COVID within the state’s public healthcare facilities, resulting in 586 fatalities. This equates to an alarming death rate of about 1 in 10 patients, or six deaths per week. The problem lies in the lack of transparency, as the state does not publish corresponding data, making the situation even more challenging to address.

This revelation arrives amidst a 30% uptick in COVID hospitalizations in Victoria, an alarming trend that shows no signs of waning. The significance of this data is its affirmation of a continuous pattern of substantial virus transmission within hospitals, along with a 10% mortality rate for hospital-acquired infections.

It reveals a drastic failure of the state and federal Labor governments and health authorities. Policies implemented knowingly put the lives of hundreds of vulnerable individuals at risk. An abrupt shift from effective mitigation measures that were executed under popular demand to an undeterred ‘let it rip’ policy in December 2021 is pointed out as a contributing factor to this healthcare crisis.

Essential safety measures such as free COVID testing, virus tracking, isolation of infected individuals, mandatory mask-wearing for health workers in medical facilities were successively eliminated, with devastating consequences. Over 24,400 COVID deaths have occurred in Australia, and globally the death toll has crossed 30 million.

Highlighting the inconsistency across health services, Stephanie Bouchoua, Deakin University Associate Professor of Nursing and president of the Australian College of Infection Prevention, calls for urgent action to reduce COVID infections in healthcare. The adoption of universal testing and compulsory use of N95 masks for healthcare workers is among her significant recommendations.

As Australia grapples with the virus’s persistent spread, the unsettling rise in COVID-related illness and death during the country’s recent summer period largely went unreported. Revelations of the increasing COVID infections in hospitals has instigated a public outcry, demanding significant changes that could ameliorate the desperate healthcare crisis.

The exigency of this situation becomes more apparent in light of warnings about the emergence of new COVID-19 variant JN.1. This variant, it is feared, can undermine immune response to infection, leading to higher community transmission rates. Victorian Department of Health’s current wastewater measurements also point towards an increasing COVID viral load statewide.


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