COVID-19: Middlemore Hospital could reach capacity as cases grow

The man tasked with predicting the effect of the COVID outbreak on Middlemore Hospital says it could become "very scary".

The hospital is regarded as the epicentre of the outbreak and is expecting to deal with hundreds of new cases a day - even if we reach a 90 percent vaccination rate.

He's shared his modelling exclusively with Newshub.

The goal of Super Saturday is to have a big impact on our vaccination numbers. As the current outbreak grows, it is more important than ever to get people protected.

The vaccine reduces the risk of catching COVID, and it is almost 90 percent effective at keeping people out of hospital.

"At the moment our hospitalisation rate is about 13 percent for our cases and that's because almost all of our hospitalisations are in people who are not vaccinated," says Dr Gary Jackson, director of population health at Counties Manukau Health.

This is the trajectory of hospitalised cases since Auckland moved to alert level 3: a jagged but steady increase across three weeks.

The cases are spread across North Shore, Middlemore, Auckland, Starship, Waikato Base and Palmerston North hospitals. But the vast majority - around 65 percent - have been at Middlemore Hospital.

With 17 cases yesterday the number of people being cared for with COVID had never been higher.

"We're thinking we don't want to go much more than a ward full in each of the major hospitals so about 30 patients in a ward," Dr Jackson says.

With 16 cases at Middlemore today it may not be long until it's at capacity and has to ask Auckland's other hospitals to share the load.

"I think we're getting worried if it's above 100 cases per day then we're starting to think about the next steps," Dr Jackson says.

The next step he's talking about is part of this plan. Over the next 12 months Middlemore is planning for a huge increase in patients.

Its peak is expected to be four to six weeks long with around 280 cases a day in Counties Manukau alone.

Dr Jackson's scenario is for next year but given the current outbreak, it may arrive earlier.

"It was always going to happen at some stage, we just wish it was going to be another three months further," he warns.

But given the current spread he's aware that's unlikely.

"We've seen a few patients in the outbreak at the moment but really as it COVID starts to seep through our community we're going to see a lot more hospitalisations unfortunately," he says.

Given all of Dr Jackson's calculations are based on a 90 percent vaccination it is worth keeping in mind that so far only 56 percent of people in Counties Manukau have two doses.