The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in South Australia has fallen by a third in a week, but the hours patients are waiting in ambulances outside hospitals has increased for the second consecutive month.
- Almost 5,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported over the past week
- New variants appear to have elongated the crest of the peak of new cases
- Hours lost to ramping were up slightly in December
South Australian Health Minister Chris Picton said the state recorded 4,954 new COVID-19 cases over the past week.
That compares with 7,671 the week before and more than 10,000 a week for the five weeks before that.
The number of people being tested for the virus also decreased over the past week.
“There was a reduction in terms of testing, but the number of cases has reduced more than the number of tests reducing,” Mr Picton said.
“That importantly shows we’re seeing a lower positivity rate in terms of cases in the community.”
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier had predicted a peak of cases in the latest wave to crest in November and then December.
But Mr Picton said a variety of different strains going around the community appeared to have caused an “elongation” of the peak.
“We were expecting back in October that the cases would be substantially down and hospitalisations down before Christmas,” he said today.
“That didn’t happen, we think largely because of the fact that we were seeing so many different strains and that’s, I think, going to be a feature potentially of COVID going forward.”
Mr Picton said a total of 185 people were in hospital in South Australia with COVID-19, compared with 255 last week.
He said there had been 20 deaths reported in the past week.
PCR testing sites at on Anzac Highway at Edwards Park and at Bedford Park, Walkley Heights and Port Adelaide will stay open until the end of the month, rather than closing this week as announced in November.
From Monday, free RATs — which have been available for all South Australians at collection sites since late November — will only be available to concession card holders and people who are immunocompromised or live with disability.
Ramping increases slightly
Mr Picton announced the COVID-19 statistics at a press conference about 24 new beds being added to 24 already promised in an upgrade to the Noarlunga Hospital, in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.
Ramping at that hospital and the Flinders Medical Centre decreased in December, compared with November, but there were longer waiting times in ambulances at the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth hospitals.
In December, 3,583 hours were lost to what the SA Ambulance Service calls “delayed transfer of care”.
That is up from 3,516 hours in November and 3,330 in October but down from the record high of 3,855 in June.
The Labor Party centred its state election campaign around fixing ramping, but the numbers have increased since then.
Opposition leader David Speirs said “another surge in ramping statistics” was “deeply concerning”.
“That means not just wasted time for paramedics, but it [also] means patients often suffering pain and anguish and anxiety in the back of those ambulance trucks waiting to enter an emergency department in this state,” he said.
Southern Adelaide Local Health Network acting chief executive Diana Lawrence said more beds at Noarlunga would help patients there but also assist the hospital system overall.
“It will help take a bit of a load off Flinders, as people know it’s been really challenging … particularly in the last month, we’ve had no reprieve,” Dr Lawrence said.
“We’ve had very sick people coming to our [Emergency Department] and I apologise to those that have had to wait long waits in the waiting room because of that.”
Noarlunga Hospital will have 140 beds following the $74 million redevelopment.