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Surgeries on hold in regions to boost hospital capacity

A suspension on all but the most urgent elective surgeries has been broadened to cover regional Victoria, Premier Dan Andrews announced as the state registered a record number of COVID-19 cases.

The new measure, revealed on Wednesday 5 August, means only Category 1 and urgent Category 2 procedures can be performed in both private and public hospitals, resulting in thousands of postponed eye surgeries and fuelling concerns over an escalating backlog.

The pause on non-urgent elective surgery originally only applied to metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire from 28 July, however, Andrews expanded the measure today to cover regional Victoria.

It comes after Victoria recorded 15 additional deaths and 725 new cases overnight.

The state-wide pause on elective surgery will help to free up bed space, equipment and staff as regional Victorian experiences a slow, but steady rise in COVID-19 patients.

Where possible, the government says Category 3 and non-urgent Category 2 surgery which is already booked should still take place, however that will be at the hospital’s discretion. No new non-urgent surgeries will be booked.

“We can’t have a situation where we are making the sickest patients wait longer because we are treating wholly worthy and important conditions, but not necessarily time-critical conditions,” Andrews said.

“We can’t put those ahead of people who need that urgent care. The sickest patients must get treated quickest. That is always a principle that our public and indeed private hospitals work under.”

Victorian Health Minister Ms Jenny Mikakos said pausing all non-urgent elective surgery will create additional capacity – which is particularly necessary for large scale aged care outbreaks where, in some cases, the best option for the patients is to transfer them out of aged care facilities and into hospitals.

“We know this will mean an anxious time for many Victorians whose surgery is delayed, but we’ll resume our elective surgery blitz as soon as it’s safe to do so, to catch up any backlog as quickly as possible,” she said.