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Elective surgery restrictions reimposed on Melbourne hospitals

The Victorian Government has suspended all Category 3 elective surgery in metropolitan Melbourne to ensure the health system can effectively manage the second wave of the outbreak.

In a decision that affects ophthalmologists, theatre nurses and other healthcare professionals, Premier Mr Dan Andrews and Health Minister Ms Jenny Mikakos also introduced new capacity limits across both public and private sectors to ensure there is enough bed space after the state recorded its highest daily total of new cases today – 317.

“The Government will pause all Category 3 elective surgery to ensure we have spare beds and workforce capacity, if the state was to experience an increase in cases,” the statement said.

“Elective surgery will also be reduced to no more than 50% of usual activity across all public hospitals and 75% in private hospitals. This means private hospitals can continue to take on public Category 1 and urgent Category 2 surgery, while we free up extra capacity across the whole system.”

Mikakos noted that the government originally planned to reinstate elective surgery levels to 100% by the end of July, however that was now off the table with 2,128 active cases in Victoria. There are now reportedly 109 people in hospital, with 29 of those in intensive care.

There will be no changes to elective surgery in regional Victoria, but the state government will continue to ensure those hospitals are well prepared.

“Earlier in the year we started to prepare the system for a worst-case scenario to ensure that we had the equipment and resources necessary for our hospitals and ICUs to care for the needs of very ill coronavirus patients,” Mikakos said.

“While we will not see the impacts of the current restrictions for at least another week we are confident that this additional capacity will ensure our health system can successfully manage the second wave of the outbreak.”

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that at least 114 Victorian healthcare workers are infected with the virus.

Since the pandemic began, 342 Victorian healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19, with industry figures confirming to Insight that some of those were ophthalmologists and other eyecare professionals.

More than 14,000 doctors and other healthcare workers, including doctors and allied health professionals, have signed up to support hospitals dealing with coronavirus outbreaks that have led to staffing shortages.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services said it did not have the capacity to advise how many eyecare professionals had subscribed to the scheme.

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