Victoria’s grim Covid report card

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) report, released on Thursday, also shows that deaths from dementia and coronary heart disease soared along withCovid deaths across Australia during the first two months of this year. In 2020, there were around 1700 fewer deaths than expected nationwide, with falls of 2.6 per cent in both NSW and Queensland. But Victoria had 382 more deaths than expected following the shocking first and second Covid waves.Last year, the state recorded 2782 more deaths than estimated – or an 8.3 per cent rise – contributing to almost 5100 more deaths nationwide. However, these figures blew out to 4732 more deaths than expected across the country in the first two months of this year.More than half of these were from Covid-19 as the virus ripped through vulnerable communities. AIHW deputy chief executive officer, Matthew James, said the excess mortality measure reflected both the direct and indirect impact of the pandemic.“In 2022, no health issue stands above, or has had as wide-reaching impacts on our population and health system, with these affects to be felt for many years to come,” Mr James said. “Millions of Australians who contracted COVID-19 have experienced the direct impacts through acute illness, with some facing longer term impacts, such as long-Covid. “A range of longer-term health effects remain unknown, highlighting the need to continue to monitor these population health impacts into the future.”The two-yearly health scorecard shows that one in 10 deaths in January and February this year were for coronary heart disease, and also dementia. Both conditions, as well as chronic lower respiratory conditions and stroke had death rates more than 20 per cent higher than expected in that period. Meanwhile, death rates from pneumonia, influenza, and diabetes dropped in 2020 and 2021.Covid-19 also was not associated with a rise in suspected deaths by suicide, Mr James said.Victorian Coroners Court suspected suicide data shows that there were 695 deaths in 2021, or five fewer than in 2020.However, the report also states that potential negative effects of public health interventions, such as lockdowns, were “challenging to quantify”. Victoria also recorded a fall in elective surgeries over the two years due to Covid restrictions, which had an impact on the “volume, type and timing of elective surgery”.The notification of new cancers in the state also decreased 10 per cent between April and mid-October 2020, when screening services, outpatient clinics and the surveillance of existing cancers were suspended.This equates to an estimated 2530 undiagnosed cancers were potentially delayed or missed.

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