Michael Pascoe: Transparency? And now the missing NSW modelling

ICU staff caring for COVID-19 patients at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital could be challenged by the latest modelling.

ICU staff caring for COVID-19 patients at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital could be challenged by the latest modelling.

“We have been so transparent every day, every day!” exclaimed New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday when challenged on a hospitalisation figure – and then she wasn’t.

The Premier last week promised Monday would see the release of all the modelling, all the detail of what the government was expecting, but instead released only part of it – infection and hospitalisation modelling only for the current 12 prime local government areas of concern.

Ms Berejiklian’s use last week of an old national hospitalisation rate of 5.5 per cent, compared with the current NSW experience double that, looked more like a stuff up than a conspiracy.

Gladys Berejiklian has failed to release all of the modelling, as promised. Photo: AAP

The suggestion that the 5.5 per cent figure was misleading was what prompted her strong transparency claim.

But it is not credible that releasing only partial figures for expected infections and hospitalisations wasn’t intentional. It is inexplicable.

With the government’s preparedness under question last week, the Premier and her Health Minister had hung their transparency promises on modelling commissioned from the Burnet Institute.

The institute did granular analysis of likely infection and hospitalisation rates for the LGAs, for Sydney and for the state.

But journalists were only given a brief six-page release that had just one page containing two graphs from Burnet – only the projections for the 12 LGAs.

That resulted in misleading reporting on the 6pm news and elsewhere, with the figures for the 12 LGAs taken as being for the state.

The peak daily infection rate of somewhere between 1100 to 2000 a day is only from those 12 areas.

Burnet’s forecast peak hospitalisation count of between 2200 and 3900 is only from those LGAs.

The outlook for the rest of Sydney was not released.

The reality is that other areas are likely to take over from the existing hotspots based on existing vaccination numbers.

Hospitalisation numbers will not retreat as quickly as just those from the 12 LGAs.

NSW Health mapping of vaccinations shows some suburbs in the existing areas of concern are recording high levels of at least one dose of vaccine, some above 80 per cent and nearly all between 60 and 79 per cent.

Other suburbs are lagging well behind them.

In particular, a spine of 50 to 59 per cent first-dose suburbs runs a relatively high-density part of Sydney from the CBD itself and Barangaroo through Redfern to Kingsford.

The virus continuing to spread promises more cases to come and longer strains on the system.

It would be good to be transparent about that.

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