CHRISTMAS could become a COVID-19 super-spreader event with the potential to completely overwhelm the health system, epidemiologist Tony Blakely warns.
But sharp rising COVID vaccination rates have already played a huge role in easing pressure on Victorian hospitals, according to the state's chief health officer Brett Sutton, to a point where the system would cope.
Revised modelling for the state government from the Burnet Institute showed predicted case loads had remained but the length of time people were staying in hospital was shorter.
"With the very high vaccination coverage, our health system - which will continue to have significant challenges - it will cope," Professor Sutton said earlier this week.
University of Melbourne's Professor Blakely warned on Tuesday though, the festive season would lead to a rise in cases of the deadly virus where it was already circulating in high numbers, such as in Victoria.
Professor Blakely told Seven Network that Queensland, touting December 17 as the date to allow quarantine-free interstate arrivals, would initially cope with reopening.
"Unlike us in Victoria, New South Wales and ACT, we've already got the virus, so Christmas may well be a super-spreader event that goes beyond what the health services can cope with," he said.
A new Australian Medical Association report shows a shortage of public hospital beds, overcrowded emergency departments and longer waits for elective surgeries were "risking the lives of all Australians".
AMA president Omar Khorshid said the report had been sent to the prime minister and every state and territory leader as its findings required immediate action.
"Australians expect to receive treatment when they need it. They expect an ambulance to turn up when they call one, and they expect to be able to get into the hospital when they arrive," he said in a statement.
"At the moment, these expectations can't be met and that is a symptom of a public hospital system in crisis."
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Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley also last week declared public hospital would only be performing the most urgent surgery in a shift to meet increasing demand on public healthcare.
Ballarat Health Services acute operations director Ben Kelly has made clear preparations at the Base Hospital were always adjusting to consider the worst and hope for best case scenario.
A marquee tent was raised outside the Base Hospital's emergency department last week with the aim to better triage an expected surge in COVID-19 presentations.
The Base is a key healthcare hub for the wider Grampians region and increasingly Melbourne's outer-west, from suburbs such as Melton.
This also comes amid rising pressure on ambulance call-outs statewide.
Mr Kelly said it was vital people keep emergency for emergencies. He said vaccination, which reduced COVID infection severity, was the community's best protection and chance to ease the burden on the city's health system.
THOSE on Ballarat's jab lines are celebrating each major milestone they hit in a long, tough campaign against COVID-19.
Ballarat Health Services is well on the way to nearing 150,000 vaccinations delivered across the Grampians region, starting with aged care residents across the city in March. It took the region's state vaccination programs six months to reach 100,000 jabs across Ballarat, Ararat and Horsham in early September and this has been on a sharp rise since.
BHS has maintained the jab rate has been matched by primary health care partners offering COVID vaccinations, including UFS' Commonwealth-funded vaccination centre on Dana Street.
Ballarat Community Health chalked up its 10,000th vaccination this week, reaching the milestone less than a fortnight after centralising its efforts to become more efficient from its Sebastopol clinic.
State and community health leaders maintain COVID vaccinations are the best protection against the deadly virus, and jabs are also a way to help prevent overwhelming strain on the region's healthcare system.
High vaccination rates within City of Ballarat - the latest figures showing full vaccination has topped 70 per cent among residents aged 15-plus - have allowed BHS Base Hospital to become a streaming ward for an overflow of Melbourne COVID patients.
Health experts has also made clear full vaccination would also be vital in curbing the deadly virus' severity in an expected case surge as the state lifts restrictions.
BHS primary and community care director Craig Wilding said milestones, such as 70 per cent double jabs, were great achievements.
We're so grateful to the Ballarat community for taking the opportunity to get vaccinated, because we know this is the way that we can protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community from serious illness from COVID-19," Mr Wilding said.
BHS now offers walk-up jabs for AstraZeneca (ages 18-plus) and Moderna (12-plus), the latter is an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer.
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