A dedicated COVID-19 ward has been established at a Newcastle hospital in response to an increase in the number of children being diagnosed.
The move is part of Hunter New England Health's planned response to the pandemic, which has been evolving since March 2020, when a dedicated COVID-19 ward was established at John Hunter Hospital.
"The District has a pandemic plan in response to COVID-19 for all facilities," Hunter New England Local Health District COVID-19 response lead Elizabeth Grist told the Newcastle Herald.
The plan was initially updated in 2021 and is being regularly updated in line with the evolving nature of the virus, she said.
Additional equipment has been sourced, including ventilators, in preparation for any surge in intensive care patients. "We also have plans in place to increase staffing and intensive care capacity if and when it is required," she said.
"Each hospital has a plan to provide ongoing care to a patient with COVID-19 or transfer that patient to a suitable hospital within the District. Our facilities also have suitable clinical spaces to appropriately care for patients with COVID-19, and our larger hospitals have identified surge capacity to address increased presentations, if and when they occur."
The Hospital in the Home (HITH) service, for all COVID-19 positive adult and paediatric patients, would also continue to help keep demand out of the hospital and hotel systems, she said.
It is likely that Hunter hospitals will become increasingly relied upon to take the strain off Sydney's hospitals, particularly in local government areas of concern, in the coming weeks when cases are expected to peak.
Modelling released by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday shows that NSW is anticipated to reach the peak of the current outbreak in mid-October when there will be 947 people requiring hospital-based care in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), compared to the normal baseline non-COVID demand of 387. During that peak period it is anticipated that between 2,200 and 3,900 people would require hospitalisation.
That is based on 11 per cent of people who contract COVID-19 to requiring hospitalisation, up from 5 per cent in early modelling.
Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro said there would be times when out of Sydney regional hospitals would be used to treat Sydney patients and vice versa.
The plan, about which more detail is expected to be released this week, is already in play with paramedics from the Hunter region being called to respond to triple zero calls from up to 100 kilometres away, according to the Australian Paramedics Association, and non-COVID-19 patients from Sydney are coming into Hunter hospitals for care.