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Victoria announces a Code Brown emergency as hospitals crack under the weight of COVID-19

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Victoria has declared a Code Brown emergency at all Melbourne public hospitals and large regional institutions, as the healthcare system continues to crumble in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic.

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It is the first time that an emergency has been proclaimed over the whole state.

The Code Brown will go into effect tomorrow at lunchtime in an effort to ease the tremendous load on the medical system, which might include asking employees to postpone vacation.

In Victoria, a Code Brown measure has been implemented. (Nine)
Barwon Health, Grampians Health, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health, Albury Wodonga Health, and La Trobe Regional Hospital are among the regional hospital systems that will activate Code Brown.

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Deputy Premier James Merlino stated that hospitals must "act soon" or risk worsening the issue.

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"We've been warning for a while that our hospital system is under great strain, and the dangers we're seeing today in hospitalizations are proof of that," he added.

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"Our health-care system has reached a stage where it is dealing with acute manpower shortages."

"It's the perfect moment to do it now, rather than waiting for a Code Brown two or three weeks later when we're seeing the impact of the peak of Omicron hospitalizations and ICU patients."

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There are presently around 4000 healthcare personnel who are unable to work owing to COVID-19 isolation rules, with over 5000 missing work on a daily basis.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Victoria might exceed 2500 in the coming weeks when the hospital's capacity is projected to be met.

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Deputy State Controller Adam Horsborough stated that health services had been contemplating calling a Code Brown for some time, but that now was the "perfect moment" to do so.

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"It's also an essential step so that we can help address the issues presented by both the caseload levels and the personnel shortages we're facing across the system," he added.

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The Royal Melbourne Facility's nurse unit manager, Susan Harding, said the hospital backed the Code Brown activation. (Nine)

Susan Harding, nurse unit manager at the Royal Melbourne Hospital's emergency department, said the hospital was "extremely supportive" of the Code Brown activation.

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"We've spent the last 20 months dealing with this shifting problem, and we're now ready for the next stage," she stated.

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"From a staffing and workforce standpoint, we've spent the previous 20 months evaluating the community's options and what they required, and what we're asking now is that the community consider what we need as a workforce and as a healthcare business."

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Ms. Harding stated that workers were "exhausted" as a result of the COVID-19 strains on the system.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint," she remarked, adding that "we have worked incredibly hard to put in sustainable mechanisms."

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The Code Brown alert is expected to continue for four to six weeks, and health authorities will monitor the situation to determine when it is safe to begin winding down plans.

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Acting Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian Branch Paul Gilbert predicted that the next weeks will be much harder for nurses and midwives who experienced "the week from hell, on top of two years of great difficulties."

"Our health-care system is confronting problems that have not been witnessed in over a century," he remarked.

"Staffing a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week roster is unsustainable when up to 7000 of your team's personnel are missing."

"Under emergency surge team models that incorporate students and allied health, nurses and midwives are operating short-staffed."
Prioritizing ambulance patient offloading at emergency departmentsNon-urgent healthcare services may be stopped or curtailed, or their frequency of availability may be adjusted.

Staff may be assigned to various areas of the hospital or to distinct responsibilities.

Staff should be asked to postpone some sort of leave if it is really necessary.

According to an infectious diseases specialist, the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital will primarily determine when Victoria's Omicron wave peaks, as the state registered 22,180 new cases and 22 fatalities today.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in Victoria have decreased since yesterday, with 1152 patients admitted compared to 1229 patients the day before.

In the intensive care unit, there are 127 patients, 43 of whom are on a ventilator.

This morning, Professor Sanjaya Senanayake told me Today that the recorded cases do not reveal the complete story.
"The fact is, I believe it will be hospitalization data that tells us when we've reached the top... because the figures that chief health officers give us every day about their state or territory are going to be quite wrong because there's simply so much Omicron out there," he added.

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In Victoria, case numbers are expected to peak in mid-February, placing further strain on a system that is already dealing with personnel shortages and fatigue.

Professor Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer, cautioned yesterday that a lot of asymptomatic COVID-positive persons would likely be out and about in the community, unaware that they were infectious and hence not getting tested.

COVID- According to Professor Sutton, 19 hospitalizations are expected to peak around mid-February, however, this is depending on case counts.

"We're going to see more people infected in the last few months than we have throughout the whole pandemic," Professor Sutton said.

However, positive findings from RATs may increase in the coming weeks, with a three-million-unit first shipment being put out across the state.

People who are experiencing symptoms are still urged to have a PCR test if they are able to.

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