Planning for a COVID-19 Pandemic

An Operational Guide for Intensive Care Units in Australia and New Zealand

The doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and researchers who comprise the Australia and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) continue to help the Australian and New Zealand communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our members provide high quality, compassionate and professional care to the most vulnerable members of our communities every day and this commitment will not change.

As seen in previous disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic will further expose pre-existing inequities in chronic health outcomes and health service delivery. We recognise that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia and the Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand are over-represented in disadvantaged populations in ways that make them far more vulnerable to pandemic disease. Indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand have been disproportionately impacted by previous pandemics. We advocate for the best possible access to and provision of critical care support for these groups. We also advocate for specific input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Māori communities in national and jurisdictional COVID-19 response programs.

ANZICS strongly supports state, national and international efforts to reduce the spread of pandemic illness through effective public health measures (i.e. social distancing and masks). This approach is supported by high-quality evidence and significantly mitigates the impact on Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity, which is a finite resource.

ANZICS strongly supports vaccination and a population vaccination target of greater than 80% (currently in those over the age of 16). Vaccination, in addition to reducing the incidence of COVID-infection, has been shown to reduce severe disease and death. Countries with a high vaccination rate have shown a clear reduction in the number of COVID-19 infections requiring ICU admission.

ANZICS strongly supports mandatory vaccination for all healthcare workers who can be vaccinated against COVID-19, with an appropriate program developed for boosters as required.

ANZICS recommends all staff have access to appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including fit-tested N95 masks or an appropriate alternative.

ANZICS recognises that patients without COVID also suffer in a pandemic and supports strategies to maintain access to elective surgery and healthcare for all patients.

The most important resource in Australian and New Zealand ICUs is experienced Intensive Care staff, who are trained to provide high-quality care for critically ill patients. The delivery of this service must be supported by government policy and community behaviour.