Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has announced ‘Stage 3’ emergency measures in Victorian hospitals as the state battles an increase in COVID cases.
It comes after Ambulance Victoria declared a code red last weekend and the Royal Children’s Hospital asked patients to avoid visiting the emergency room “where possible”.
What does Stage 3 involve? Here’s what you need to know.
Victoria has a COVID response plan for hospitals, with four levels of emergency response.
A Department of Health spokesperson told TDA ‘Stage 3’ kicks in when there are 800 COVID-related hospitalisations statewide.
It does not force hospitals to do anything, but it allows them to request staff to cancel leave plans and to use telehealth instead of face-to-face meetings in a broader range of settings. In these cases, staff cannot be forced to cancel leave.
The spokesperson also noted Stage 3 did not impose decisions about elective surgeries (that is up to hospitals).
This changes under Stage 4, which is activated when there are 1,400 COVID-related hospitalisations statewide. Under this stage, there are impacts on some elective surgeries.
Signs of strain
In the early hours of last Saturday, Ambulance Victoria announced a ‘code red’ in metropolitan Melbourne due to “extremely high demand” for ambulances, warning of likely delays.
On Monday, the Royal Children’s Hospital said it was experiencing “unprecedented demand” and a high number of “extremely unwell children”. It advised parents to “seek alternative care… where possible” on Monday evening.
The Victorian Government publishes quarterly statistics on the performance of its hospitals which indicate significant delays in a number of areas.
According to the latest figures covering the period from July to September, one in four elective surgery patients were not treated within the recommended time, and 85,000 elective surgery patients were on the waiting list.
In the same period, 40% of emergency care patients were not treated in the recommended time, and 40% of ambulance arrivals were not transferred within 40 minutes.
A spokesperson for the Victorian Government told TDA “the pandemic is not over” and said the Government was “grateful for the hard work and commitment of each and every healthcare community and [thanked] the Victorian community for their patience and understanding.”
The Government says the public health workforce has grown by 9% over the pandemic period.