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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

Northern NSW remains consistently busy despite Delta

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The Northern Rivers Times Edition 76

Northern NSW remains consistently busy despite Delta

Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) continued to provide high quality and safe care during the Delta outbreak, which started mid-June 2021. The Delta variant had a pronounced impact and was the most challenging quarter for the NSW Health system since Bureau of Health Information reporting began.
Emergency departments across NNSWLHD saw just shy of 50,000 attendances in the July to September quarter of this year according to the latest Bureau of Health Information (BHI) quarterly report.
The report, which measures hospital performance across the state, showed a 4.7 per cent increase in activity in Northern NSW emergency departments compared with the same quarter in 2020, despite stay-at-home restrictions across Local Government Areas in Northern NSW during the reporting quarter.
A total of 49,811 people attended Northern NSW EDs for treatment. This also included 9,038 patients arriving by ambulance, an 8.5 per cent increase on the same quarter in 2020.
Across the LHD, 72.9 per cent of people left the ED within 4 hours, a 2.6 per cent decrease on the comparable quarter but above the state average of 67.5 per cent.
NNSWLHD Chief Executive Wayne Jones said the results show the region’s health services coped well under the pressure of COVID-19 Delta and thanked staff for their ongoing dedication to their patients.
“I want to thank our hardworking staff for continuing to provide our community with high-quality and safe care throughout the Delta outbreak. While we are still on high alert and prepared for any increased demand, we are seeing hospital activities and attendances get back to normal levels,” Mr Jones said.
“With the state opening up and restrictions continuing to ease, we naturally expect to see greater numbers of people presenting to hospital once again.
“We also anticipate more visitors from other areas coming into the region, especially during the summer break, but our health services are primed and ready should COVID-19 hospitalisations increase.”
There were 261 presentations categorised as T1: resuscitation, the most urgent triage category, the same number as the comparable quarter, while T2, T3 and T4 categories saw increases of 4.3 per cent, 8.0 per cent, and 2.9 per cent respectively.
Elective Surgery
During July to September 2021, 3,905 elective surgeries were performed, 4.6 percent fewer than in the same quarter in 2020. The median waiting time for urgent elective surgery decreased by 1 day, to an average of 14 days. Patients on the waiting list at the end of the quarter decreased to 5,727, a 5.9 per cent drop.
More surgeries were performed on time across all urgency categories when compared to the same quarter in 2020. Almost all urgent procedures (99.5 per cent) were completed on time, with 81.3 per cent of semi-urgent, and 83.5 per cent of non-urgent surgeries performed on time.
The 2021-22 budget for Northern NSW Local Health District is over $946 million, an increase of nearly $33 million, or 3.6 per cent more, than the previous year’s budget.
INDIVIDUAL HOSPITAL RESULTS
BALLINA DISTRICT HOSPITAL had 4,092 ED attendances, a 4.1 per cent decrease on the same quarter last year. 72.2 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, with 76.9 per cent leaving the ED within 4 hours. The median time to leave the ED was 2 hours and 14 minutes.
BYRON CENTRAL HOSPITAL saw 4,876 people attend the emergency department, a 0.6 per cent drop on the comparable quarter. 81.7 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, above the state average of 74.5 per cent. 80.9 per cent of patients left the ED within 4 hours, with the median time from arrival to leaving the ED being 1 hour and 53 minutes.
CASINO & DISTRICT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL had 3,332 people attend the ED in the July-September quarter, a 21.4 per cent increase on the same quarter in 2020. Despite this significant increase in attendance, 67.6 per cent of patients started treatment on time, with 84.6 per cent leaving the ED within 4 hours. The median time spent in the ED was 1 hour and 40 minutes.
GRAFTON BASE HOSPITAL had 6,576 people attend its ED the last quarter, a 9.9 per cent increase in activity. 74.3 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, with the median time from arriving to leaving at 2 hours and 21 minutes. 72.4 per cent of patients left within 4 hours.
LISMORE BASE HOSPITAL saw 9,563 attendances, with a 7.7 per cent increase in arrivals by ambulance. 55.6 per cent of patients left the ED within 4 hours, with the median time at 3 hours and 35 minutes.
MACLEAN DISTRICT HOSPITAL had 3,436 attendances, a 22.6 per cent increase in activity. 70.1 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, with 88.4 per cent leaving the ED within 4 hours.
MURWILLUMBAH DISTRICT HOSPITAL had 4,117 attendances, an increase of 2.7 per cent, this included 331 arrivals by ambulance, a 6.1 per cent increase. 81.8 per cent of patients started their treatment on time and 84.2 per cent left the ED within 4 hours, with median time at 1 hour and 43 minutes.
THE TWEED HOSPITAL had 11,706 people attend in the July-September quarter, a 3.1 per cent increase. This included 2,725 arrivals by ambulance, a 10.6 per cent increase. 77.9 per cent of patients started their treatment on time, with the median time spent in ED at 2 hours and 41 minutes.

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2022 Floods

Housing demand creates planning challenges

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NSW-Northern-Rivers-Breaking-News

Housing demand creates planning challenges

The current lack of affordable and diverse housing for buyers and renters is a crisis which is confronting all levels of government.

A move to regional areas, limited government investment in social housing, a boom in short terms rentals, COVID-19, the recent floods and inflation have put great pressures on the property market.

While housing is primarily the responsibility of federal and state governments, Tweed Shire Council plays a key role as a determining authority/regulator for housing and planning law.

 

Council acts on unauthorised dwellings. Over the last 2 years, Council has contributed to an increased supply of affordable housing by encouraging diverse and affordable housing through the approval of more than 130 DAs involving secondary dwelling (granny flats) development controls, in addition to established dual occupancy controls.

In recognising the housing crisis, Council has worked collectively through the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation (NRJO) and Local Government NSW, to be an advocate for action on new social housing supply and affordability policies.

Over the last 2 years, Council has contributed to an increased supply of affordable housing by encouraging diverse and affordable housing through the approval of more than 130 DAs involving secondary dwelling (granny flats) development controls, in addition to established dual occupancy controls.

Attached dual occupancy dwellings are also possible in many rural areas, in addition to established urban areas.

More information can be found at tweed.nsw.gov.au/granny-flats-secondary dwellings

Additional dual occupancy information can also be found at tweed.nsw.gov.au/dual-occupancy

While Council provides a supportive approach to people affected by the housing crisis, it also has an important statutory responsibility to ensure that any land uses or building works provide a safe and secure housing.

Council recently resolved at its 7 July 2022 meeting to reinforce its role in undertaking compliance action on unauthorised dwellings.

General Manager Troy Green said Council had rescinded the resolution at Item 21.1 of the 2 June 2022 Confidential Council Meeting. The resolution sought to extend an initial moratorium from its 4 November 2021 meeting on taking compliance action on unauthorised dwellings up until 30 September 2022.

“After attending a workshop and gaining additional advice from staff, Councillors acknowledged there may be significant risks for Council to extend the earlier moratorium,” Mr Green said.

“In response to the potential risk and liability identified, it was agreed that a late report be submitted to the Extraordinary Council Meeting of 7 July 2022, seeking to rescind Council’s resolution from the 2 June 2022 meeting.

“Council also resolved that any new compliance matters would be subject to the current requirements of Council’s adopted Compliance Policy.”

Unauthorised building works carried out without required formal approval and certification can pose significant risk to life and property.

In other scenarios, unauthorised building works could also be poorly located on sites which are flood prone, bushfire prone, contaminated or landslip areas and thereby present similar life-threatening, public health and environmental hazards.

Council encourages people to undertake their land use activities with proper consent and approvals to avoid causing a nuisance or acting in breach of legislation.

Council has a compliance policy which guides the approach and response to a range of compliance issues.

However we also rely on the community to report unauthorised work and provide evidence to assist Council in taking action.

Compliance officers use their discretion when dealing with such matters, taking into account the evidence, cost to the community of any action, details of the case, public policy and legal precedent.

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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER

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PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER

With a new wave of COVID-19 cases continuing to increase across the state, people with disability are encouraged to get the latest COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services Natasha Maclaren-Jones said people with disability can be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of COVID-19.
“Protecting people with disability is vital as they can be at greater risk of developing serious illness if they become infected,” Mrs Maclaren-Jones said.
“Vaccination is readily available at GPs and pharmacies and we are urging everyone to book in without delay.”
COVID-19 booster doses are recommended for anyone 16 years and older who had their last dose of a primary course at least three months ago.
The COVID-19 vaccine can be taken at the same time as the influenza vaccine, which people with disability are also being urged to take.
While the free flu vaccination program in NSW ends on 17 July 2022, those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza remain eligible for a FREE flu vaccine beyond this date, under the National Immunisation program. This includes:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age
• Children from six months to under five years of age
• People with serious health conditions (including severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease)
• Pregnant women
• People aged 65 and over.
The NSW Government is also providing up to 7.9 million rapid antigen tests (RATs) to people with disability and other vulnerable community members with the program recently expanded to 31 October 2022.
To find your nearest vaccination clinic, visit nsw.gov.au.

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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

Royal Australian College of GPs COVID-19 antiviral treatment

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NSW-Northern-Rivers-Breaking-News

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the expansion of COVID-19 antiviral treatment access.

It follows federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announcing that eligibility for lifesaving COVID-19 antiviral treatments will be widened. From today, access will be expanded under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to the following patients who test positive to COVID-19:

  • all those aged over 70
  • people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease
  • immunocompromised people over 18 may also be eligible.

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett welcomed the expansion.

“This is a sound and timely decision that will make a real difference for many patients across Australia,” he said.

“In communities everywhere, we have high rates of community transmission of COVID-19, and we know that some patients are particularly vulnerable to severe effects. By expanding access to the antivirals, we can help keep people out of hospital, relieve pressure on the entire health system and save lives.”

Dr Willett said that once again GPs and general practice teams will be front and centre.

“General practice is the backbone of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and we play an essential role getting people timely access to these potentially lifesaving antivirals,” he said.

“GPs are the key to safely prescribing these treatments. We have a strong and, in many cases, long-standing connection with our patients and understand their life circumstances including existing health conditions or other factors such as plans to become pregnant. We also have a comprehensive understanding of how these antivirals interact with other drugs and established systems such as telehealth, so GPs can speak with COVID-19-positive patients safely and prescribe the right antiviral without delay.”

The RACGP Vice President said that that more must be done to fight complacency and contain the harm caused by COVID-19.

“Expanding eligibility is vital; however, we must also enhance community awareness around antivirals and ensure that those patient groups most vulnerable to severe effects from the virus access these drugs. They can save your life if taken early enough,” he said.

“People who believe they are eligible for an antiviral should make an appointment with their GP now to plan how they can receive the drugs if they test positive. Because the drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a GP will not be able to prescribe an antiviral until the patient actually has COVID-19. So, for those eligible – as soon as you get a positive rapid antigen test or a positive PCR test, call your GP and, if you can’t talk to them, leave a phone message to say you have tested positive and you need a prescription.

“The reason this is so important is that with these treatments we must act quickly. The antivirals have to be given within five days, and they become less effective as you get closer to day five. So, getting that message out there is essential, and I encourage everyone to have conversations with people in their life about these treatments.”

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