The number of COVID-19 related hospitalisations in the Illawarra Shoalhaven district has risen by 57 in the space of just one week.
Less than a week after a Wollongong union representative of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association warned hospitals in the area were on the "brink of collapse", the explosion in case numbers in recent days is raising fresh fears about a system that is already struggling to cope.
State MP for Keira and the Opposition's health spokesman Ryan Park said he had been contacted by lots of concerned community members and healthcare workers about the pressure being placed on the public health system and the "level of stress" on local hospitals and healthcare staff.
He said the furloughing of healthcare workers and the closure of Bulli Hospital's urgent care centre due to staffing issues was putting an incredible strain on those staff who remained at the frontline.
"This is putting incredible pressure on staff and a system that is already very, very burdened," he said.
Mr Park said the true nature of the looming health crisis could not fully known because of the difficulty accessing COVID tests in the Illawarra.
"We have a situation in the Illawarra where some of the PCR testing clinics have been closed and people are trying to get hold of rapid antigen tests but they can't," Mr Park said.
He said that instead of the government announcing it would fine people for not disclosing a positive RAT result, it should have made sure there was a ready supply of tests available, especially for those "vulnerable citizens".
He said the government was telling the public they needed to start taking personal responsibility for their own health and COVID testing, yet had failed in its basic duty of care.
"The government is talking about personal responsibility but cannot live up to their end of the bargain," he said.
"The government is trying to put the blame on individuals.
"We are going into our third year of this pandemic. It's not the third month or the third week.
"The situation has not been well-managed."
He put the blame for the current explosion in COVID case numbers squarely on the government for its "disastrous" decision to lift mask mandates and QR check-in requirements before Christmas.
Instead of taking steps to heed warnings of what was to come, he said NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was too busy criticising him for raising the alarm about rising hospitalisation and ICU rates.
He said Opposition Leader Chris Minns had been on the phone to him daily and shares "the same level of concern about a system at breaking point.".
Mr Park said he feared the situation would get worse before it got better.
"The RAT supply issue will be not going away in the next couple of days [so ] I think we are in for a very tough few weeks," he said.
The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) recorded 1396 new COVID-19 cases to the 24 hours to 8pm Wednesday. The figures were based on PCR tests only and do not include positive cases from self-reported rapid antigen tests (RATs).
The health district said it was working towards including that information in the future.