Dr Shawn Burns fears for son with severe disability as Omicron tide adds pressure to hospitals | Illawarra Mercury


A University of Wollongong professor has expressed fears for his son with a severe disability as the surge of Omicron cases builds pressure on hospitals. Journalism lecturer, Dr Shawn Burns, said while the government reassures the health system will cope, such “hopeful declarations” are not for people like his son, Mac. Mac is a young adult with severe cerebral palsy. While he is healthy, he is dependent on others. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters on Friday that while there was “significant pressure”, the “health system is strong, we’ve invested significantly”. But hospitalisation rates are continuing to rise, with some health care workers reporting hospitals are in bed block and are facing serious nursing staff shortages. As at 8pm Sunday, there were 2030 people in hospital with COVID-19, 159 of those in intensive care units. Dr Burns said if Mac were to contract the virus and develop severe symptoms, an overwhelmed hospital system that is “buckling, if not breaking” means he and thousands of others living with disability would not receive the individualised support needed. “Under the circumstances we had hoped we would be at two years in the pandemic, we would take Mac to hospital,” Dr Burns said in a blog post. “But, we are not in those circumstances.” “He is 18 but the size of a small 10-year-old. He is an adult – that means an adult ward and adult care. “We know him and his every look, sound, and emotion, but no one else does. We would be able to help, if allowed, but that would be unlikely if we also have COVID, and Mac is being treated as every other adult in the hospital. “An overwhelmed hospital and health care system would not be able to meet the 24/7 demands of Mac’s usual care, let alone the attention, child-size equipment, and staff needed for a COVID patient, potentially in intensive care.” Dr Burns said while this would be the worst case scenario, it is becoming “significantly less unlikely” for those living with disability as case numbers and hospitalisation rates grow. “This is scary, but we don’t pretend to deserve anything not afforded to others during the pandemic,” he said. “Sadly, however, we have lived through what can go wrong in a health system under usual circumstances let alone one that’s under the pressure of a pandemic and a tidal wave of cases.” Dr Burns, his wife Gina and Mac are all triple vaccinated and have been “significantly isolating” for the last two years at their Tapitallee home. They have carefully adhered to health advice and taken extra precautions as the state opened up. “Even when I returned to face-to-face teaching for a brief time at the start of last year, we did it without fully embracing the ‘return to normal’ we were encouraged to do,” said Dr Burns. Dr Burns extended his thanks to those on the frontline and encouraged others to “get vaccinated” and “be sensible”. “Our thoughts are with our family and friends on the medical frontline, including two nieces in the nursing army,” he said. “We are also eternally grateful to those in the essential services who have enabled us to isolate and shield. “We know you are being told to return to work even if positive. We hope you know how much you are appreciated.” We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.


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