Victoria Issues Emergency ‘Code Brown’ To Support Hospitals

Under extreme pressure

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A statewide "Pandemic Code Brown" has been issued for Victorian hospitals, who are struggling to meet rising demand while dealing with staff shortages because of the Omicron wave.

Usually engaged under extreme situations such as natural disasters and mass casualty events, the declaration streamlines health services to manage a strained health system.

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Under the code, health services can discuss canceling workers' planned leave to boost resourcing, while non-essential care can be deferred.

Deputy premier and acting health minister James Merlino said the strain on hospitals under “extreme pressure” was getting too much.

“We’ve reached a point in our health system where it’s juggling severe workforce shortages .. alongside a vast number of patients with Covid-19 needing hospitalisation.”

“We could well get to over 2500 hospitalisations and more over the next few weeks,” he warned.

Triggered by more than 4000 health service staff furloughed due to isolation requirements, the changes aimed to free up more staff, will also provide outpatient services outside the hospital, and the rapid offloading of ambulance patients at emergency departments to get paramedics back on the road as soon as possible.

Hospitals may also choose to redeploy staff to work in areas of highest clinical priority.

In addition to hospitals in Metropolitan Melbourne, the Code Brown will be implemented at Barwon Health, Grampians Health, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health, Albury Wodonga Health and Latrobe Regional Hospital.

The Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association, Roderick McRae said doctors have been calling for a “code brown” for weeks. 

“This is an accurate reflection and an appropriate response in these extraordinary circumstances because the health system is in much greater stress than has been publicised,” Dr McRae said.

“It is important that the community understands just how serious it is.”

Dr McRae said the code is well overdue as conditions deteriorate across the state's hospitals.

“The senior and junior medical staff have been reallocated and the general practitioner workforce is being pummelled and under-resourced. It couldn’t go on like this. There had to be a circuit breaker."

- Dr McRae

The Code Brown is expected to last four to six weeks.


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Triple M Newsroom

18 January 2022

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Triple M Newsroom

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