Infectious diseases experts believe pressures facing Victoria’s hospitals will get worse before it gets better.
A state-wide ‘Code Brown’ is now in effect giving hospitals greater powers, to manage a record number of COVID-19 patients.
Premier Daniel Andrews says, it’s a necessary measure to ensure Victorians can continue to access critical care.
“This is not about money, it’s not about machines, it’s not about effort,” said Premier Andrews, “everyone is doing their best, everyone is working their hardest.”
“It’s all about people, and if you have thousands of people who are highly skilled, and highly competent, that simply can’t come to work – that affects the amount of service that you can offer.”
There are currently 1,152 patients in hospital with COVID-19 and 93 of those people are in intensive care.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation believes hospitals urgently need military support.
Hospital staff could be asked to work in areas they usually wouldn’t, and some doctors and nurses could be called back from leave to help.
Paul Gilbert from the union’s Victorian branch, is concerned that won’t be enough.
“We are thoroughly short staffed and getting worse, and any help we could get – including help from the military who have trained medics, doctors, nurses – would be invaluable,” said Mr Gilbert.
However, the Prime Minister has rejected suggestions the ADF could be deployed to Victorian hospitals.
“There is not some shadow workforce that sits in the defence forces or somewhere else, that can automatically just replace furloughed staff because they have Covid – and so that does mean there are shortages,” said Mr Morrison.
About 20 ADF personnel will drive ambulances, while public servants will be deployed to take triple zero calls.
Doctors believe Victoria has been too slow to adjust the health system to continue normal care – despite the pandemic.
Alfred Hospital Intensive Care Unit Director, Dr Steven McLachlan says, better planning is needed to manage the issue.
“We’ve always had to make adjustments for things, such as unexpected things – bushfires, crashes, those sort of things – but this sort of infectious disease and pandemic, living with that, we really need to adjust the system, so that we can keep those usual parts of healthcare going,” said Dr McLachlan.
“It’s an absolute necessity, and this has gone on for a long time now – we really need to address that.”
Clinical Epidemiologist, Professor Nancy Baxter says, despite the pressure, the state is tracking in the right direction.
“Cases do seem to be slowing down in terms of the number – we seem to be on the other side of the curve, but we’ve got a long way to go because it’s still a week or two before hospitalisations peak,” said Professor Baxter.
Thus far, non-urgent care, including elective surgery, is being delayed.
Category-one procedures could even be paused in coming weeks.