Little: Health system has ‘capacity’ to deal with Omicron cases

Source: 1News

Health Minister Andrew Little says there is "capacity in the health system" to look after hospitalised Omicron cases.

Minister of Health Andrew Little (file photo).

He told Newstalk ZB daily Covid-19 cases numbering in the tens of thousands was at the "extreme end" of modelling.

"We expect, realistically, a number lower than that, and therefore the number going to hospital will be lower than the 100 a day."

Auckland's three district health boards are predicting around 1800 cases a day for the city at the Omicron outbreak peak, expecting to see that in March.

READ MORE: Middlemore Hospital staff confident it will cope with Omicron

Little said case numbers could be 5000-50,000 a day, which he described as a worst-case scenario the health system had to be prepared for.

The Prime Minister has said the Government was planning for scenarios of up to 50,000 cases a day to make sure it was well prepared, but stressed it was not based on modelling.

However, the number of these cases which would be hospitalised would be in the hundreds, Little said.

This was due to the fact the "vast majority" of cases would be able to take care of themselves.

"What it does tend to mean is if numbers who end up going to hospital do grow significantly then it’s things like elective surgery procedures that end up being put-off. We’ve had that experience before," Little said.

"We’ve still got a major catch-up job to do with a lot of procedures but that will happen again. But that’s about keeping people who are suffering the worst of Covid alive and having to put off those non-critical surgeries."

Little said the health system had "coped" with Covid-19 in the last two years but did not deny it had been under pressure.

He said the workforce was short-staffed — about 1500 nurse vacancies — but said the Government’s approach was about keeping the pressure off the health system.

He said the shortages were not to the tune of numbers the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists had recently estimated — 1500 more hospital specialists being needed, 1400 GPs and 12,000 nurses to match Australia per capita.

"In the time I’ve been health minister I’ve certainly been advised that we have shortages, but we have coped very well.

"One of the reasons for the approach this Government has taken to Covid — whether it’s Delta, Omicron, whatever — is to make sure we are doing the best we can to keep the worst of the pressure off the health system, precisely for that reason."

Mask-wearing, distancing and a "very cautious approach" also help, Little said.

Auckland's Middlemore Hospital said on Monday it is confident it will cope with Omicron.