Frontline report from ICU in a pandemic

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s ICU is one of two trauma centres in Victoria, and was at the forefront of the response to the state’s so-called second COVID-19 wave last year, when Melbourne went into lockdown for 112 days and COVID-19 cases surged to more than 700 per day.

The impact of such outbreaks on ICUs has been a major focus and source of concern during the pandemic, with worries that the health system could be overwhelmed. Once little considered, the machinations of an intensive care unit are now front and centre in the nation’s mind and conversation.

We talked to Associate Professor Jai Darvall, an anaesthetist and intensivist – intensive care specialist – at the Royal Melbourne Hospital to get an understanding of working in an ICU, and of the particular needs of critically ill COVID-19 patients

Darvall is co-leader of the perioperative medicine service within the Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management at Royal Melbourne.

In addition to his clinical work, he holds dual appointments at the University of Melbourne in the departments of Critical Care and Medical Education. He has clinical and research interests in frailty, perioperative medicine, and persistent critical illness; his PhD investigated the mechanisms and outcomes of frailty in older surgical and ICU patients.

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