On last night’s Q&A, host Hamish Macdonald was joined by a panel of three experts.
With him in the studio was Dr Norman Swan, a physician, journalist and broadcaster, best known as the co-host of ABC’s podcast Coronacast. Professor Sharon Lewin, the leading infectious diseases expert and Director of the Doherty Institute, and Professor Paul Kelly, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, joined the show via video call.
1. NSW could run out of hospital beds by April 10.
When asked by one viewer if Australia was in a position to run out of ventilators, Dr Swan answered: “The predictions at the moment… If this hockey stick (the sudden rise in cases) doesn’t change that much… we’ll be out of ICU beds in New South Wales, Victoria will be behind that, by April 10th.”
He added: “And in that case ICU physicians will be faced with some very difficult decisions. And overseas, 30 per cent to 40 per cent of ICU beds are filled with young people.”
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2. “We are not Italy.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, however, disagreed.
He explained that there was a “laser-like focus” on Australia’s current intensive care capacity, and we are able to double or even triple ICU capacity relatively easily.
“Look, we are not Italy,” he said.”I’ve seen some people say when they look at the curves of what Norman is referring to, the epidemiological curve that we’re two weeks behind Italy. We are not two weeks behind Italy. We’ve been testing and finding many more mild cases.
“Italy mainly tested the top of the pyramid, the very serious cases that came into hospital…
“We’ve only had 20 people throughout this whole period who have been in intensive care. We’ve had seven deaths unfortunately, all in older people. The average age is 86.”
3. “You don’t kill as many doctors and nurses, to be blunt.”
Dr Swan, who has been widely praised for being a clear and trusted voice at a time of mass panic, said: “People don’t realise that what we’re actually entering now, we have not experienced for 102 years.
“And this is ancient epidemiology. This is difficult stuff. Where we’re changing the way we live for an indefinite period. It’s clearly scaring government. And when you put your foot on the break you can’t take it off…”