Vic hospitals to suspend elective surgery

·2-min read

Victorian hospitals are being left to their own devices when deciding to maintain or cut elective surgery to ease mounting pressure during the latest COVID-19 wave.

The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne has foreshadowed it will begin deferring elective surgery and restrict outpatient bookings in coming days, as statewide COVID-19 hospitalisations near 800.

In a leaked letter to staff, the Alfred's chief executive Andrew Way says it's time for sensible and practical action amid surging cases of the Omicron BA.4 and 5 subvariants.

"Later this week we will start reinstating the principles and plan that guided our COVID response across the health service during the last wave," Mr Way says.

"This means elective surgery will, again, be deferred. It means that we will, again, limit outpatient appointments."

Visitors to the Alfred's hospital wards will be asked to wear N95 masks, while staff in non-clinical areas are encouraged to don masks and discuss work-from-home options.

In a statement, Alfred Health confirmed the changes but said clinically urgent category one procedures would proceed as planned.

"Where arrangements can be maintained for patients with lower priority categorisation, they will," it said.

Bendigo Health has similarly been forced to scrap some elective surgery procedures in response to high bed demand and staff on leave with respiratory illnesses.

"We review staffing and capacity on a daily basis and direct resources to areas of highest need, meaning on some days some non-urgent surgeries are cancelled," chief operating officer David Rosaia said.

"We understand this is frustrating for patients and apologise to anyone who is impacted."

About 1900 Victorian health workers were off work sick with COVID-19 and more were struck down by cold or flu, Acting Premier Jacinta Allan said.

But health officials and hospitals had told the Andrews government they could manage this stage of the pandemic at a local level, she said.

"The hospitals are best placed to make those really difficult decisions about the delivery of local services," Ms Allan told reporters.

"There has been a huge amount of work preparing for this winter."

Victoria's elective surgery waiting list blew out to almost 90,000 by the end of March after category two and three procedures were suspended in early January as the state braced for a forecast 2500 COVID-19 hospital patients.

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier does not support another statewide ban but called on the government to show leadership and release relevant health advice.

"We're not getting that ... we're getting excuses," she said.

Victoria recorded 11,283 new COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths on Thursday.

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