Bass Coast Health will strengthen its existing coordination, within the sub-region, across the Gippsland region, and with Metropolitan services to build resilience and capacity at the peak of the Omicron variant outbreak.
In a first for the Victorian Department of Health, a coordinated Code Brown (Pandemic Code Brown) has been announced requesting health services activate Code Brown plans simultaneously, formally recognising the compounding pressures on our health system and workforce.
Bass Coast Health formally activated its Code Brown Plan from midday 19 January 2022, alongside other health organisations in our region and state.
The Code Brown announcement facilitates coordination, communication and information sharing to support the best use of hospital resources.
“A coordinated approach allows hospitals to work together to prioritise resources, redistribute demand across the system and manage workforce shortages”, said CEO Jan Child.
“We have worked hard to build strong and responsive relationships with other services in our sub-region including with Kooweerup Regional, South Gippsland and Gippsland Southern health services. We partner with Latrobe Regional Health, Gippsland Public Health Unit and with our tertiary partners in metropolitan Melbourne. The existing collaboration will strengthen our response and I am very confident we are in a strong position to get through these extraordinary times."
Bass Coast Health has regularly adapted the way it has operated over the past two years to ensure continuity of service and excellence in care during the Pandemic.
The Code Brown enables the health service to change the way services are delivered to manage the increasing COVID-19 caseloads over the coming weeks. Importantly, it ensures that the sickest patients will be prioritized for care, and it ensures essential, urgent and emergency care will continue.
“Our planning ensures that more staff are available to deliver care in the priority services of Emergency Department, Urgent Care Centre, Cancer, Dialysis, Inpatient care, Hospital in the Home, Covid Pathway program, District Nursing, Midwifery, Residential Care, Testing and Vaccinating," Ms Child said.
With Omicron spreading at unprecedented levels, BCH is preparing for more hospitalisations including for COVID patients.
“Our plans to sure up our essential services requires sacrifices and changes: changes to our staffing models, use of alternative workforces, re-deployment of staff, cancellation of all non-urgent elective surgery and suspension of some community health work so we can prioritise care for those who need it most," Ms Child said.
"These are all really tough decisions – and not ones we make lightly – but we have strong plans in place, and an incredibly strong and able team in place to protect our health system and our community through this latest wave.
“I have been nursing in public health since 1981 and I have never known the system to be under such duress. Healthcare provision over the past two years has been very challenging, and on top of the Pandemic, we are building a new hospital at Wonthaggi, planning for a new hospital at Phillip Island and creating new services such as the Rigby Cancer service. I am in awe of our team who have worked so hard to improve our services, and I continue to be very confident that we are as prepared as we can be for these challenging weeks ahead.
"We have an extraordinary team at BCH. The staff are skilled and committed, and they have not once stepped away from our charter to deliver excellence in care. We are supported by extraordinary partners – Alfred Health, Monash Health, Latrobe Regional Health, Gippsland Public Health Service, Monash Pathology, I-Med, Ambulance Victoria, Bass Coast Shire Council and our sub-regional partners. I am confident that the strong planning, and the strong collaboration, will get our community through this period."
Bass Coast Health expects bed pressures to intensify in coming weeks, requiring this escalation and emergency management response, and they anticipate being able to stand down the Code Brown, when the peak of hospitalisations and Omicron, has passed, hopefully before the end of February.
"I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our staff, and to thank our community for their unwavering support and kindness," Ms Child said.