Auckland health officials are “hopeful” that Covid-19 hospitalisations will turn a corner next week as they confirm the city is now past its peak of new cases.
But the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre’s chief clinical officer, Dr Andrew Old, warned that Aucklanders are “not out of the woods yet”.
Hospitals in the city are currently looking after 618 out of the 930 total hospitalised patients nationwide.
Old warned that emergency departments around the city were beginning to admit greater numbers of older and medically vulnerable people who had Covid.
“Although at this stage cases remain predominantly in younger age groups, we are seeing an increasing number of older people with severe illness,” he said.
“It’s important we remain vigilant to prevent further spread into groups who are at higher risk of ending up in hospital.”
The average age of those hospitalised remains around 40, according to Old, and overall the number of new hospitalisations are now “plateauing”.
Middlemore Hospital’s emergency clinical director Dr Vanessa Thornton said around 30% of people visiting the hospital’s emergency department in the past several weeks have been testing positive.
Thornton said the hospital now has dedicated five wards to patients with Covid-19 and that another could be made available if needed.
She said that pre-existing conditions in patients like diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung disease were having “the greatest impact and causing the need for hospitalisation”.
Around 10% of Middlemore’s staff were off work, Thornton said, but the hospital did not need to bring in any asymptomatic staff with Covid-19 despite being able to. She said around 15% were off work earlier in the outbreak.
Old said an initial review of admissions had found one-third of those hospitalised clearly had Covid as their reason for admission.
“A further third have Covid as a secondary finding – while a quarter were diagnosed with Covid during their admission and at the time of review, the contribution was unclear.”
On Thursday, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told RNZ that he believed total nationwide hospitalisations would continue increasing over the next several weeks.
He said he believed total nationwide figures would likely exceed 1000 even while Auckland’s hospitalisations fell.