Category three elective surgery paused in Victoria in wake of COVID-19 cases

Surgeon picking up surgical tool from tray. Surgeon is preparing for surgery in operating room. He is in a hospital.

As the number of COVID-19 cases escalates in Victoria, the state government has paused all category three elective surgery in metropolitan Melbourne to ensure hospitals have the capacity to admit infected patients if needed.

Elective surgery will also be reduced to no more than 50% of usual activity across all public hospitals and 75% in private hospitals. Private hospitals can continue to take on public category one and urgent category two surgery, while extra capacity across the whole system will be freed up.
There will be no changes to elective surgery in regional Victoria.

In addition, Victorian hospitals are being supplied with extra beds and equipment while works are underway on converting more treatment spaces, including upgrading operating theatres, recovery and other ward areas, and emergency department spaces. If required, more beds will open in modular facilities in hospital car parks.

Part of the state government’s plan is also to reopen the former Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, now known as St Vincent’s Hospital on the Park, to prepare an extra 84 beds into the health system. Work has been underway to recommission the building.

More than 86 million gloves, more than 34 million surgical masks,1.4 million N95 masks, and 2.2 million face shields are currently available in Victoria’s warehouse ready to be distributed to health services across the state.

Currently, there are more than 1,200 ventilators in Victorian health services and hundreds more ready to deploy in the warehouse if needed as well as more than a thousand IV pumps and hundreds of patient monitors, the state government said.

According to the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the government has been preparing to tackle the global pandemic since January, with the capacity to rapidly scale up and down based on current modelling from public health experts.

“We have thankfully not needed this extra capacity yet, and I hope we never will- but we need all Victorians to stay at home to protect the health system and save lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt said 7,500 ICU beds around the country that could be made available at short notice if needed.

“We have the capacity with regards to ventilators. We scaled that up”, Minister Hunt said in a press conference yesterday.

In addition to these preparations, Minister Hunt said 20,000 nurses were being trained for higher duties “… and that process is significantly completed,” he said.

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