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Coast braces for 'pandemic of unvaccinated' as top doc warns hospital may not cope

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Gold Coast hospitals are gearing up to be swamped by a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” amid fears the border zone will continue to lag behind vaccination rates as the state rushes towards a December 17 deadline to open borders.

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Head of infectious diseases at the Gold Coast University Hospital, Dr John Gerard, said even if Queensland was able to meet the state-wide 80 per cent vaccination rate required to lift restrictions before Christmas, the Gold Coast would remain in the virus firing line.

Gold Coast hospitals were quarantining extra isolation wards to deal with unvaccinated locals and an anticipated influx of Covid-carriers once restrictions eased and people flooded into the city.

“I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that this magic number of 80 per cent is just a number where the epidemiologists have told us the hospitals won’t be completely overwhelmed,” Gerard told ABC Gold Coast.

“It doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be a major pandemic of the unvaccinated here on the Gold Coast. And that’s what we are gearing up for.”

Gerard said the Gold Coast University Hospital and other hospitals across the city were on high alert as apathy and anti-vax sentiment continued to impact Gold Coast vaccination rates.

“The mood in the hospital is very tense,” he said.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen because we don’t know what’s going to happen with vaccination rates.

“We have five wards designated for this pandemic of the unvaccinated, unvaccinated people who get Covid, five full wards and two or three intensive care pods.”

He said the ability of the health system to cope would rely on people getting vaccinated immediately.

“It all hinges on what happens over the next few weeks and whether we achieve the vaccination rates they are seeing elsewhere in Australia.

“I can’t see why we shouldn’t be able to do that. If you go across the border into northern NSW, I mean they’re no different to us, but they’re getting much higher vaccination rates to us.

“I assume it’s because this epidemic just hasn’t touched Queenslanders yet. We haven’t had a community wave of infection yet, so it’s not a concept that anyone’s used to.

“I think that what will happen is that as soon as it starts to spread, people will get vaccinated. But it would be a lot smarter to get vaccinated right now.”

Gerard said the impact would stretch across all hospital operations.

“There are things you don’t think about. What we’re learning from NSW and Victoria is that someone might come in with a relatively mild form of Covid and they have a broken arm.

“They risk transmitting that virus to somebody else in the hospital. We have to find a way of isolating those people who have unrelated problems coming into the hospital with Covid.

“Every single aspect of the function of our hospitals will be affected by this pandemic of the unvaccinated. There is palpable tension in the hospital over this.”

The warning comes as Gold Coast leaders today doubled down on efforts to encourage locals to get vaccinated this week.

Peak tourism body Destination Gold Coast called on Gold Coasters to get jabbed “for tourism.”

“We are Australia’s number one holiday destination, and we need to be at the top of the list when it comes to vaccination rates as well,” chair Paul Donovan said.

“It’s also important that visitors feel secure when they arrive and enjoy everything the Gold Coast has to offer”.

CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said it was “concerning” that Gold Coast vaccination rates continued to fall short.

“The Gold Coast is a $5.9 billion tourism industry that one in six jobs rely on and every single Queenslander needs to play their part in getting vaccinated,” O’Callaghan said.

“Do it for tourism. Do it for local business. Do it to freely travel again.”

 

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