Tweed Hospital.
Tweed Hospital. Scott Powick

Hospitals 'struggle' as record flu rate strikes North Coast

THE flu season has struck Northern NSW early this year, crippling our hospitals while leaving the elderly vulnerable to severe illness.

So far, more than 550 people have been confirmed to have suffered with the flu in the Northern NSW Local Health District this year.

And these are just the figures of those patients who have received positive diagnoses either at their doctor's clinic or their hospital, suggesting the region is on track for its worst annual outbreak.

Last year in June there were 24 cases of the flu reported in Northern NSW, 86 in July, and 398 in August.

This year the cases have jumped to 182 in June, 157 in July, and August is expected peak at a higher rate.

As at Monday, just seven days into August, 94 people had already been reported.

Most flu seasons are sparked by a single strain but this year multiple strains A, A (H3n2), A (H1N1), B Yamagata and Victoria are circulating.

Tweed Hospital Intensive Care Unit's lead Dr Mike Lindley-Jones said the outbreak was particularly affecting the elderly and was putting a strain on resources.

"We are experiencing a flu season earlier than in previous years," Dr Lindley-Jones said.

"Patients are coming in with the influenza critically unwell and we're always full, but with the flu season, we're really struggling."

NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord called on the NSW Government increase hospital staffing levels.

"The flu season is smashing NSW emergency departments and it is only going to get worse," Mr Secord said.

Banora Point's Conal Healy has taken one week off work and cancelled a trip to Melbourne due to being bed ridden with strain A and pneumonia.

"I went out to lunch last Saturday with a bit of a sniffle and a cough and within 24-hours I was literally down hill.

"Last night I went to Banora chemist for Codral, because that's the only thing that seems to work, and they had run out."

NSW is experiencing one its worst flu seasons on record with 21,412 confirmed cases - more than double the same period last year.

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