A nurse working in one of NSW’s worst-hit regions by COVID-19 says the virus is “literally tearing families apart” and taking a huge toll on health workers.
Most important points:
- Ms Dowd says young children are separated from infected parents
- Eleven virus-related deaths have been linked to the geriatric ward at Liverpool Hospital.
- Ms Dowd made a ‘call for arms’ to get people vaccinated
Michelle Dowd, nurse manager at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney’s southwest, has revealed the tragic reality of families where one or more members have contracted COVID-19.
She said her department had treated both parents of young children “so sick that they have to be ventilated in our intensive care unit and separated” from their children.
“Sometimes they don’t have a family to take care of these children, or the family is so sick that we have to arrange alternative care,” she said.
“This virus is literally tearing families apart.
“Many of our parents with COVID are young. They are normally fit and healthy.”
One of the largest hospitals in the country, Liverpool Hospital is located in the South Western Sydney (LHD) local health district, which accounts for more than a quarter of daily case numbers.
Of today’s 1,164 infections, the LHD in South Western Sydney was responsible for 379 cases and at least 11 virus-related deaths were associated with the hospital’s geriatric ward.
Ms Dowd said any patient unfortunate enough to be admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) required significant care.
“Intensive care patients need one-on-one nursing care … they need to be monitored very closely so we can respond immediately if they deteriorate,” she said.
“If you or your loved one are currently in intensive care for any reason, you may not be able to have a visit.
“Our COVID IC patients, they are not allowed to have visitors at all.
“In the worst case scenario, at the end of life, we will transfer a call to the family and hold the patient’s hands and provide as much care, comfort and support as we can.”
Ms Dowd said patient care also took a significant toll on health professionals.
“It’s very physically demanding work. They need so much support and supervision and physical care,” said Ms Dowd.
“We are in layers of PPE (personal protective equipment), sometimes for hours at a time,” Ms Dowd said.
Even though Sydney’s south west has closed the gap in the vaccine race in NSW with some of the highest single-dose admissions in the country, there were still some who couldn’t or wouldn’t get the shot.
When asked if patients have expressed regret for not getting vaccinated, Ms Dowd said: “[It’s] certainly not something we are going to ask intensive care patients.
“I think when we go back and talk to people who have recovered, that’s definitely something they’ll say. But right now, we’re just focusing on supporting them in this.”
Ms Dowd said her performance alongside NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian at today’s press conference was a “call to arms” to get vaccinated.
“As your frontline health professionals, help us keep patients out of the hospital,” she said.
“By getting vaccinated, you’re not only protecting yourself. You’re also protecting your family, your friends, strangers.
“You are going to help us save lives.”