SA health system crushed by COVID-19: AMA

The AMA has expressed concern about the ongoing pressure on South Australia's health system.
The AMA has expressed concern about the ongoing pressure on South Australia's health system.

The coronavirus pandemic has "steamrolled and crushed" South Australia's health system, a state parliamentary committee has been told.

Australian Medical Association state President Michelle Atchison said SA did not have enough ambulances, mental health patients were going without support and health workers were overworked and exhausted.

She told the COVID-19 Response Committee on Tuesday the AMA had not expected the state's borders to reopen in late November.

It believed more work could have been done to prepare health practitioners, and more time allowed for SA to reach a higher vaccination rate.

"Our view is one that's shared by many health professionals at the moment," Dr Atchison said.

"That is that we had a health system that everyone knew had significant cracks in it and COVID has steamrolled and crushed that system," she said.

Dr Atchison said while the latest modelling forecast a peak in Omicron cases in the next two weeks, questions remained about what would happen after that time.

"What will the health system look like then? How will it manage in the weeks and months beyond?" she said.

"How will the health system manage the backlog of cases of non-essential surgeries and other treatments that have been put on hold while this Omicron wave swamps us?

"What is being done to prepare for the impact of long COVID? Are there projections for case numbers and the staff to care for these patients?

"What's the long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of older Australians, many of whom have become virtual prisoners in aged care facilities?"

Dr Atchison said while South Australia had handled the Omicron outbreak better than the eastern states, the AMA still had concerns for how the health system was going to manage come March

In figures released on Monday, the state government said 567 SA Health workers were currently infected with COVID-19 while another 259 were away from their worksites while isolating as close contacts.

Australian Associated Press