Victoria’s health system will be entering a ‘Code Brown’ as the state graples with the Omicron outbreak.
All public metropolitan and major regional hospitals will be activating the formal emergency management structure which aims to provide relief and support to struggling services.
The Department of Health is calling the coordinated Pandemic Code Brown from midday on Wednesday 19 January, following support requests from the health services for further assistance.
Acting Minister for Health James Merlino said this is the best way to ensure hospitals can safely care for those who need it most.
“Our health services will have to make some hard decisions over the next few weeks to manage increasing demand and I thank every single one of them for making the tough calls necessary to help as many Victorians as they can,” he said.
The changes health services can implement include configuring services to free up more staff, including the delivery of outpatient services outside the hospital and the rapid offload of ambulance patients at emergency departments to get paramedics back on the road as soon as possible.
Hospitals may also choose to redeploy staff to work in areas of highest clinical priority and discuss cancelling leave with staff.
Health services and the health workforce will continue to have responsibility for clinical and operational decisions that affect patients and their communities.
This includes decisions around how to manage internal patient flow within a health service as well as the assessment, treatment and referral of patients, which could see the postponement or deferral of care that is not urgent.
Additionally, there will be an expansion of covid streaming sites to increase the number of hospitals caring for coronavirus patients – easing the pressure at hospitals currently handling the most patients.
The Department of Health will also establish a new Health Service Response Centre which will help hospitals coordinate patient flow, distribute activity and support decisions around service reconfiguration – such as suspending some activity or moving to home-based care.
The Pandemic Code Brown is expected to last four to six weeks and health officials will monitor the situation to determine when it’s safe to begin winding down arrangements.