COVID-19 Health System Response Strategy

SA Heath has updated plans for managing the surge of Omicron cases in South Australia’s hospital system to ensure that demand can be managed across the state.

The Omicron variant has provided a new set of challenges, with an increased number of cases but more people who are COVID-19 positive have been able to be treated at home than in hospital. Currently, less than 1% of cases have required hospitalisation, but the volume of cases is much higher.

While the peak of the Omicron wave has passed and case numbers are expected to continue to reduce, the acute health system remains ready to respond to surges in cases and hospitalisations, guided by whole-of-system response strategies.

SA Health anticipated approximately 300 COVID-19 positive cases would be in hospital at any one time under the Delta planning, with numbers building over several months. To respond to the Omicron outbreak, the plans were revised to manage up to 500 cases in our public hospitals:

  • The Royal Adelaide Hospital will increase its capacity from 200 to 300 COVID-19 inpatients.
  • The Flinders Medical Centre will treat up to 100 COVID-positive patients in the south and will continue to treat pregnant women and their babies.
  • The Lyell McEwin Hospital will treat up to 100 COVID-positive patients in the northern suburbs.
  • The Women’s and Children’s Hospital continues to care for children with COVID-19 in hospital and under the COVIDKids Program.
  • Regional hospitals across the state are already treating local COVID-positive patients and will continue to do so, with planned increases in capacity and capability.

Any required capacity will be created from a combination of the beds purchased in late 2021 to expand the acute sector in preparation for COVID, use of the private sector, a reduction in elective surgery (if needed) and the use of different facilities for patients as available.

The system-wide response pathway outlines how and where patients will receive care. It is focused on providing the right care, in the right location, at the right time and includes a broad system response, including:

  • COVID-19 Testing Sites continuing to test and provide results to South Australians and the SA Health contact tracing team, and the COVID Response Care Team.
  • COVID-19 Contact Tracers prioritising those cases that are high-risk to the community, with a focus on high-risk settings and outbreak management.
  • Mainstream GP Clinics continuing to support patients with non-COVID-19 health needs and symptomatic and mild COVID-19 symptoms with escalation pathways.
  • GP Respiratory Clinics and Respiratory-Ready GP Clinics supporting patients with respiratory health needs, including examining, assessing and treating COVID-19 symptoms.
  • COVID Response Care Team overseeing and coordinating all positive COVID-19 cases requiring care and support.
  • COVID Care Centres providing short-stay treatment options for people who need extra health support but don’t need to be hospitalised.