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Healthcare worker exposes the real reason behind the Covid testing debacle

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A NSW healthcare worker has lifted the lid on the workings of a Covid pathology lab – as employees scramble to keep up with the sheer amount of positive cases coming through.

The insider claims the healthcare system is ‘vulnerable’ despite assurances from public figures low hospitalisation rates mean the virus is being kept at bay. 

‘We are currently at the absolute limit of testing, there is literally no more equipment available, let alone staff, in the country to process more samples,’ the source said.

He claimed the ‘rhetoric so far’ that the number of hospitalisations is the key indicator of the severity of a Covid wave is completely wrong. 

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‘We cannot cope. The quality of patient care is suffering.’ 

A NSW healthcare worker has lifted the lid on the workings of a Covid pathology lab – as employees scramble to keep up with the sheer amount of positive cases coming through. pictured: Testing clinic at Bondi on December 28

Pictured: Ms Cantarella wearing PPE

Pictured: Ms Cantarella wearing PPE

Ms Cantarella has been run off her feet in a Covid ward and is demanding better conditions and a pay increase for herself and her colleagues

Labs have been ‘batch testing’ samples in an attempt to speed up the process throughout Sydney’s lockdowns in 2021, the insider claimed in a Reddit thread.

This process requires taking small traces of a group of tests and sampling the entire batch for Covid. If it returns a negative result, the entire batch of patients are informed they do not have Covid.

But if a positive result is derived from the batch sample, tests are individually tested to find the source of the infection.

The problem pathology labs are now facing, the source claims, is that every second batch is returning a positive result – meaning the process is now not streamlining anything. 

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Labs across the state are overrun as people turn out in droves to get tested – queuing for hours at any given time and in some cases waiting upwards of 100 hours for their results.

On Tuesday, NSW recorded 6,062 new Covid cases and one death. There are 557 patients being treated in hospital with the virus, up from the 521 on Monday.

There are 60 patients receiving care in ICU, another slight jump from the 55 in intensive care on Monday. 

With state leaders requiring negative PCR results in order to travel - like in Queensland - many people after finding themselves clogging up the laboratories despite having no symptoms or no known exposure to the virus simply to get the all clear to travel

With state leaders requiring negative PCR results in order to travel – like in Queensland – many people after finding themselves clogging up the laboratories despite having no symptoms or no known exposure to the virus simply to get the all clear to travel

Premier Dominic Perrottet has repeatedly called on Sydneysiders to avoid getting tested unless they have symptoms or have been directed to test in attempt to alleviate the extra pressures

Premier Dominic Perrottet has repeatedly called on Sydneysiders to avoid getting tested unless they have symptoms or have been directed to test in attempt to alleviate the extra pressures

Premier Dominic Perrottet has repeatedly called on Sydneysiders to avoid getting tested unless they have symptoms or have been directed to test in attempt to alleviate the extra pressures.

But with state leaders requiring negative PCR results in order to travel – like in Queensland – many after finding themselves clogging up the laboratories despite having no symptoms or no known exposure to the virus simply to get the all clear to travel.

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On Sunday, Health Minister Brad Hazzard described the process as ‘stupid’.

He accused the Sunshine State leader of playing ‘raw politics’ by insisting all arrivals present negative PCRs tests, despite the demand putting huge strain on healthcare services. 

The insider said there is no preferential treatment in the sampling process, saying her own PCR test is among boxes full of days-old swabs yet to be tested.

‘I can guarantee you that no amount of phone calls will speed up the process. We are being bombarded with work and cannot make things go any faster, not for you or anybody else.’   

Labs have been 'batch testing' samples in an attempt to speed up the process throughout Sydney's lockdowns in 2021, the insider claimed

Labs have been ‘batch testing’ samples in an attempt to speed up the process throughout Sydney’s lockdowns in 2021, the insider claimed

Dozens of pathology staff are esen at the SydPath testing clinic in Bondi on Tuesday

Dozens of pathology staff are esen at the SydPath testing clinic in Bondi on Tuesday

‘Most wards have enough workers to just get by, and anybody calling in sick or even taking their annual leave can spell trouble for the remaining staff, requiring them to take on extra shifts, double shifts and overtime. This is no different in pathologies.’

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The insider’s comments were supported by a handful of other users on the Reddit thread who claimed to be medical professionals experiencing similar situations in their own workplaces. 

St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney’s east was forced to apologise twice this week after accidentally sending 1,395 people false negative test results when their samples either hadn’t yet been tested or were in fact positive.

The bungle saw hundreds of families reunite on Christmas Day without realising they were exposed to Covid – and there are fears the mistake could lead to thousands of new cases.

The lab apologised, citing ‘human error’ for the mistake and vowing to put procedures in place to ensure it could never happen again. 

An Easter suburbs musician was one of more than 400 people who received a text message giving the all clear for Christmas (pictured)

The next day they received another message informing they were actually positive (pictured)

An Easter suburbs musician was one of more than 400 people who received a text message giving the all clear for Christmas (left) before receiving another message the following day informing they were actually positive (right)

Even with the pathology shambles, the insider says nurses in hospital wards are feeling the pinch just as much.

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At the peak of Victoria’s Delta outbreak in October, exhausted nurses told Daily Mail Australia they no longer considered the title ‘hero’ a badge of honour.

Nurses have revealed they arrive at hospitals throughout the state each day for their shifts, not knowing what time they’ll be able to go home again or if they’ll even get a toilet break.

The work is relentless, nurse Olivia Cantarella told Daily Mail Australia.

‘It’s heartbreaking,’ she said. ‘We’re extremely busy, it’s stressful and overwhelming.’ 

Staff shortages and increasingly long hours are already depriving frontline workers of much needed rest – and as experts warn cases are likely to soar this month, there are concerns the sector will be overrun.

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Even with the pathology shambles, the insider says nurses in hospital wards are feeling the pinch just as much

Even with the pathology shambles, the insider says nurses in hospital wards are feeling the pinch just as much

Olivia Cantarella, a Melbourne nurse, told Daily Mail Australia the situation for nurses on the frontline is 'grim'

Olivia Cantarella, a Melbourne nurse, told Daily Mail Australia the situation for nurses on the frontline is ‘grim’

‘We won’t cope. We’re not coping now. There isn’t any other way to put it. We’re only human, you can only do so much overtime and double shifts before your body literally says no,’ Ms Cantarella said. 

Ms Cantarella said she and her colleagues are constantly ‘consumed’ by anxiety about potentially bringing Covid home from a shift and infecting their loved ones and community.   

‘We don’t feel like heroes anymore. But we keep on turning up to work because we care about our community, we care about the future and we care about doing the right thing even though it’s literally killing us,’ she said.  

Breaks midway through gruelling 12-hour shifts are already practically non-existent and, for many, the joy of helping people is rapidly being outpaced by exhaustion. 

Nurses are ‘heavily fatigued and constantly dehydrated’ at work, which often rolls into a double shift because there simply aren’t enough staff to treat all the patients.

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However health experts, including Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, have assured the public there is no need to panic about Covid – or the new Omicron variant – because hospitalisation figures remain stable. 

Dr Coatsworth dismissed Doherty Institute modelling that predicted up to 200,000 cases a day next month, insisting that simply ‘will not happen’. 

Omicron IS milder, new study finds 

People who catch Omicron Covid are 80 per cent less likely to be hospitalised than those who get Delta, a major study from South Africa suggests.

The real-world analysis, of more than 160,000 people, comes ahead of a similar report expected to show Britons are also less likely to be severely ill with the variant.

Omicron sufferers were also 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to ICU or put on a ventilator compared to those with Delta, according to the study led by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

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South African doctors have insisted for weeks that Omicron is milder since raising the alarm about it on November 24 and accused the UK of panicking about Omicron.

But the researchers at the NICD who carried out the study, which has not been peer-reviewed yet, said it still doesn’t answer whether Omicron is intrinsically weaker than Delta.

‘It is difficult to disentangle the relative contribution of high levels of previous population immunity versus intrinsic lower virulence to the observed lower disease severity,’ the researchers concluded.

Built-up immunity from three previous waves of the virus and vaccines are believed to be doing most of the heavy lifting in keeping patients out of hospital this time around.

Up to 70 per cent of South Africans are believed to have had Covid before and only around a quarter are double vaccinated, with boosters not widely available yet.

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