An intensive care nurse working in one of NSW's worst COVID-19 hotspots says the virus is "ripping families apart" and taking an enormous physical and emotional toll on healthcare workers.
More than 870 COVID-19 patients are in hospital in NSW, with 143 in intensive care. Liverpool Hospital nurse manager Michelle Dowd is one of the frontline workers trying to keep them alive.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, when another 1164 cases were reported, Ms Dowd said COVID-19 patients coming into her ICU are "some of the sickest we've ever seen".
Among them are entire family groups facing tragic circumstances, she said.
"We've had parents - both parents - of young children so sick that they need to be ventilated in our intensive care unit and separated from their children.
"Sometimes they don't have extended family to look after these children, or the extended family is also so sick that we need to make alternative care arrangements.
"This virus is literally ripping families apart."
Ms Dowd's hospital is located within one of the areas hardest hit by the current outbreak.
More than 1700 people in the Liverpool local government area, in Sydney's southwest, have been diagnosed with the virus.
But on top of managing a higher caseload and some of the sickest patients they've ever seen, ICU nurses have been left to provide emotional support for dying patients in the absence of visitors.
"In the worst cases, at the end of life, we'll connect a call with the family and hold the patient's hands and provide as much care and comfort and support as we possibly can," she said.
"We know this is really hard for families. This is really hard for us as well."
The emotional toll is huge, but looking after COVID patients is physically very hard work too, she said.
"They require so much support and monitoring and physical care. We're in layers of PPE, sometimes for hours at a time."
Healthcare workers are doing their best to help those who contract the virus, but the community must help them by getting vaccinated, Ms Dowd said.
"Help us as your frontline healthcare workers to keep patients out of hospital," she pleaded.
"By getting vaccinated you don't just protect yourself, you protect your family, your friends, strangers ... you will help us to save lives."
© AAP 2021
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