When Australia will run out of ICU beds
Health experts are warning Australia will run out of ICU beds and needs to double numbers to cope with demand from the massive influx of coronavirus patients.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has warned up to 1.6 million people in the state are likely to become infected.
But Australia currently has just 2229 ICU beds.
She said forecasts showed five per cent of residents affected by coronavirus - or up to 80,000 people - would require intensive care.
However, NSW has just 874 beds.
Statistician Megan Higgie, from James Cook University, estimates that when Australia has 44,580 infected patients, our ICU beds will be full, assuming they will all be taken up by coronavirus patients.
She believes that will mean we could run out of ICU beds in early April.
But because not all beds will be taken up by coronavirus - with people from car accidents and heart attacks still needing them - she said the date would be even sooner.
Dr Higgie said the number of ICU beds was critical in determining the number of people who unnecessarily die from COVID-19.
"There are some reports that makeshift ICU beds can be made, but how many and how quickly? Both unknowns at this stage," she said with co-author Dr Andrew Kahn.
They said to prevent unnecessary deaths from April we needed to go into lockdown and practice "extremely strong" social distancing.
The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society suggests ICU beds may have to double to cope with the increased demand.
Anaesthetist Dr Cameron Graydon said the system was not prepared.
"We are looking down the barrel of not being able to give everyone who gets severely ill into ICU," he told the ABC.
"That's when we have to start making those terrible decisions. It'll be younger and younger patients will be the only ones getting into intensive care and ventilated.
"The younger patients have a better chance of survival."
He said a total lockdown was the only way to save the system.
Professor John Fraser, director of ICU at St Andrews Hospital in Brisbane, also said we won't cope.
"We do not have enough intensive care beds," he told the Brisbane Times.
"Australia has great intensive care, but we just don't have the beds.
"If it gets as bad as Italy, people who would normally get an ICU bed might not."
He said Queensland's beds would be at capacity very soon.
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone previously warned the ICU situation was going to be a "significant issue".
"We'll never have enough to cope with a health emergency, a national health emergency, of the scale that potentially this could evolve to," he said.
Originally published as When Australia will run out of ICU beds