Exclusive: Inside a hospital emergency room ‘red zone’

As hospitals across the country face the growing threat of what flu combined with COVID-19 cases could do to our health system, doctors fear the worst may be yet to come.

Today we got an exclusive look at the “red zone” of the emergency room at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney to see just how serious the threat already is.

Infectious disease doctor Dr. David Andresen has been monitoring hospitals’ flu numbers, telling Today that the combined pressures of COVID-19 and a potentially massive flu wave will present an unprecedented challenge.

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You can sign up for Today’s newsletter here. (Today)

Rescuers at Sydney’s St Vincent’s are concerned about what they will see this winter based on the number of flu infections already being brought into the red zone this year. (Today)

READ MORE: Millions qualify for free flu shot starting today

“It is already at levels comparable to a severe pre-pandemic year and we are very concerned about what we will see this winter if that trend continues,” said Dr. Andresen to Today.

“It’s going up and we don’t know how long it’s going to keep going up. It’s already at a level that’s very worrying, especially with the pressure on the emergency department. If that keeps going up, you’re putting that on already significant ongoing COVID-19.” activity and it’s a double whammy for healthcare.”

Medical director of the emergency department, associate professor Paul Preisz said it is only a matter of time before health personnel find out how big the wave of cases will be.

dr. David Andresen has been keeping track of the hospital’s flu records. (Today)

READ MORE: How to Get a Free Flu Shot in Your State or Territory?

He gave Today’s Lara Vella a first-hand look at how the “red zone” of St. Vincent’s emergency department works, a very restricted area for COVID-19 patients that also quickly fills up with flu patients.

Anyone entering this area must wear full personal protective equipment, including fit tested masks, face shields, gloves and protective scrubs.

This is the same outfit that doctors and nurses have to wear every day for a ten-hour shift.

“We have some CPR rooms that are much more specialized and negative pressure chambers built for complete cardiac arrest and full CPR,” Preisz said.

“There is now a patient who was really unwell and there is currently only one room available. We are quite busy.”

Medical director of the emergency department, associate professor Paul Preisz, took over the red zone of St. Vincents today. (Today)
dr. Bash Jagarlamudi said it’s been a marathon for the past two years but it’s not over yet and the next 12 months will be quite challenging. (Today)

READ MORE: Frontline workers call for a complete overhaul of the national health system

dr. Bash Jagarlamudi is one of the doctors working in the ward and she said many of the patients being treated for flu are often young and otherwise healthy.

“We’ve seen a lot of very sick people with flu, it’s going to be a pretty challenging year with still a lot of COVID-19 cases and with flu on top of that it’s going to put a strain on our resources,” Jagarlamudi said.

She said the past two years have been a marathon with COVID-19 and doctors don’t know when it will ease.

“It’s not really over yet. I don’t know when it will be and I don’t think anyone will, which makes it difficult,” she said.

As frontline health professionals continue their tireless efforts to protect us, they are urging everyone to protect themselves by getting the flu vaccine.

Today an exclusive look at the red zone of the emergency department of the Sint-Vincentius Hospital. (Today)

“The flu vaccine is free, it’s available to almost everyone now. It gives you protection,” Preisz said.

We can’t guarantee it’s perfect, but it gives you protection and the chance of getting sick and hospitalization is much, much smaller.

“I strongly urge people to get vaccinated and take care of themselves.”

Watch Lara Vella’s exclusive report above

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