SA flu cases spike amid surging hospital demand

South Australia has recorded 777 new flu infections over the past week, while the number of infectious people in hospital has risen by 43, prompting concerns about growing pressure on the state’s already-stretched health system.

New data released by the government on Monday shows South Australia has so far recorded 2645 influenza infections this year – well surpassing the 40 cases reported for the entirety of 2021.

All up, 238 people have been admitted to hospital, including 43 in the past week.

Younger South Australians are overrepresented in the data, with 19 being the median case age.

South Australia recorded as many as 27,093 flu infections in 2019, but cases dropped in 2020 and 2021 while travel and social distancing restrictions were imposed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The spike in cases prompted the government to last month make flu vaccinations free through a subsidy scheme for GPs and pharmacists, with 63,909 people taking up the offer in the first week.

SA Health on Monday released its winter demand strategy, which projected hospitals would experience a 39 percent increase in respiratory presentations over the winter months.

Figures released yesterday also showed South Australia’s ambulance response times have been at their worst on record this financial year.

There was a 30 percent increase in ramping in May, the figures shown.

Health Minister Chris Picton said the state was “combating a very significant pressure on our health system” from the flu, COVID and other respiratory illnesses.

“We inherited a health system under enormous strain with flu cases now only adding to increasing demand,” he said.

“This is the first winter since the pandemic hit that our health system will be required to manage both COVID-19 and the flu, as well as normal winter demand, and we know this will be a challenge.

“We are facing huge issues in terms of this winter where we simply don’t have the capacity across the health system to be able to make sure that we’re not going to be ramping or we’re not going to be cancelling elective surgery .”

The government hasd to open 80 pledge additional hospital beds to help deal with winter demand.

They include 10 mental health beds, 10 “transition to home” beds, 10 “virtual kids at home” beds, 28 private sector beds, 16 additional beds at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Center and six extra beds at the Strathalbyn and District Health Service.

The government is also in the process of splitting the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s “COVID care centre” in two and repurposing half of the space for a new acute assessment centre.

South Australia yesterday reported 2255 new COVID-19 cases and the death of a woman in her 70s who tested positive for the virus.

There are currently 241 COVID-positive patients in hospital, including nine in intensive cases.

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