Bass Coast Health Triggers Code Yellow


Bass Coast Health (BCH) has today called a Code Yellow to signal an internal emergency relating to staffing shortfalls.

According to CEO Jan Child, staffing shortfalls have been a constant feature of the Pandemic and these shortfalls are now at a point that they are impacting Bass Coast Health’s ability to deliver all its services.

“Just a few weeks ago, the whole State was in a Code Brown situation because of increased demand and staffing shortfalls; This week, Bass Coast Health, along with a number of other Victorian health services, find themselves in a continued state where there are not enough staff to meet demand," she said.

“Our staff have been magnificent throughout the Pandemic. They have developed new services to ensure our community is vaccinated and tested; they have created capacity for our COVID patients to be cared for at home and in our hospital. They have continued to expand services such as Hospital in the Home, Cancer, Cardiology, and Outpatients, all with the aim of making sure our community can receive care closer to home. And to achieve this, they have been picking up extra shifts for the past two years to fill vacancies across all areas.

"Unfortunately, 12 hour shifts and double shifts have become an all too common feature. We have had some luck recruiting excellent new staff but like all health services, there are simply not enough staff to meet our unprecedented demand.

“This decision was not taken lightly, but our staff are extremely fatigued, and we need to make sure we can support our staff to focus on safe, high quality care in our key areas."

Unlike the recent Code Brown where surgery was reduced, the Code Yellow will see all clinical services continue with surgery continuing full speed ahead.

“It is important that we continue our surgery to make sure patients can get their booked surgery completed. We know that some people have had delays to their surgical care over the past two years and we are trying very hard to make sure we can keep surgery ticking along. We will also work hard to maintain our Maternity, Cancer, Emergency, Outpatients and Primary and Community services, knowing they are all much busier providing essential care every day," Ms Child said.

Bass Coast Health had already decreased the number of sub-acute beds from 16 to 10, and will now decrease the number of acute inpatient beds from 26 to 20. In addition, short stay beds in the Emergency Department will decrease from 8 to 4. BCH is also reviewing its role in Vaccination and Testing, and will explore other service opportunities to ensure resources are targeted to the areas of greatest need.

“We have been relentlessly recruiting, with intensive recruitment efforts over the last 12 months, and we will continue to be proactive in this space and look at incentives and opportunities to grow our team. We need all types of staff: clinical and non-clinical. Nurses, Doctors, Allied Health, Cleaners, Porters, Engineers,” she said.

“The pay is ok; we support and develop people well; and there is rewarding work available for people with the right values, at our sites at Wonthaggi, San Remo and

"Our staff are extraordinary and every day our staff make a difference. They have been wearing stifling PPE for more than two years; and they have been working longer and harder –above and beyond - to deliver care for their community. But they are also exhausted and we need to make sure they can take their breaks, and spend time with their own loved ones to rest and recover.

“While we understand most of the community is now over COVID and have moved on, we are still in the grip of COVID. We are still in the midst of looking after the community during a pandemic. We know our demand will continue to rise; and we recognize the hugely important role the Wonthaggi Hospital expansion and the Phillip Island Community Hospital will play in serving our local community over the coming years.

“The Code Yellow provides us with an opportunity for an intensive and focussed response to our very unusual circumstances, and is an important mechanism in keeping our focus on the provision of safe, high quality healthcare.

“I want to reassure everyone that this Code Yellow should not be a concern to our patients, or to our community. If you are unwell, please continue to seek care; if you need our services, please continue to reach out. This Code Yellow process does not stop access to our essential services. All it does is provide a short pause for BCH in the currently frenetic and heightened pace, to allow us to re-prioritise our resources.

“We continue to be confident in our capacity to care, and we are well supported by our colleagues in the Department of Health, in other Gippsland and Metro health services, and by services such as Ambulance Victoria. We are part of an excellent health care system and it is the collaboration of our partners which will continue to hold us in good stead."

Bass Coast Health is not the only health service in Victoria to declare a Code Yellow in recent times. Omeo District Health was operating under a Code Yellow this week and other health services to recently have Code Yellows were Ballarat Base Hospital, Albury Wodonga Health and Northeast Health Service in Wangaratta.

People interested in joining our healthcare team should email the BCH Human Resources team: