Australia news live update: Victoria’s hospitals move to ‘code brown’ over Covid demand; George Christensen rebuked

As Victoria braces for Covid hospital admissions to skyrocket, a “code brown” emergency has been declared in all metropolitan hospitals and six in the regions, reports AAP.

The unprecedented move will take effect from midday on Wednesday.

The order means each hospital will be able to postpone or defer less urgent care, while some staff may be reassigned or recalled from leave.

Staff will only have leave cancelled if “absolutely necessary”.

The federal government has also activated its private hospitals agreement, allowing staff to be redirected to the public system.

The acting health minister, James Merlino, announced on Tuesday that the measure would last for four to six weeks, with hospitalisations from the Omicron wave expected to peak in February.

He said the state’s hospital system was under “extreme pressure” from staff shortages, with more than 4,000 healthcare workers isolating after either testing positive for Covid-19 or as close contacts.

The code brown applies to all metropolitan Melbourne public hospitals, as well as major hospitals in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Albury Wodonga and Traralgon.

A code brown of this scale has never previously been declared across the Victorian health system.

They are usually reserved for short-term emergencies, such as the Black Saturday bushfires and deadly 2016 thunderstorm asthma event.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine spokeswoman Dr Mya Cubitt said she understood that Victorians may fear they will not be able to access emergency medical care.

But she stressed that people experiencing medical emergencies will be prioritised, and will receive acute care, but that care may be in a different location to what was expected.


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