Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child has announced a paring back of services at the Wonthaggi Hospital to Emergency and critical care needs, effective from Monday, January 17.

And get a better mask, they say

BASS Coast Health has pulled the emergency rip-cord and will make drastic changes to services, effective this Monday, January 17, in the face of critical staff shortages.

In a statement issued after 5.30pm on Friday, January 14, Bass Coast Health (BCH) revealed that it has had to furlough upwards of 100 staff members “either positive, having a family member with COVID or being a household contact”.

As result people have been working 16-hour days to keep services operating but, ultimately, something had to give, and it has.

According to the BCH release:

“The Emergency Department, Urgent Care Centre, Testing, Vaccination Centre, Cancer Service, Dialysis, Hospital-in-the-Home (including the newly developed COVID positive in-home team), Inpatient areas and Midwifery are a priority and will be maintained.

“Other services will experience reductions or closures effective from Monday, January 17.

“The staff from these services will be redeployed to keep the critical services open. Some of the changes include:

  • Non-critical elective surgery will be ceased and only Caesarean sections and Category 1 urgent surgery will be undertaken
  • Sub-acute services will return to Wonthaggi Hospital from Korumburra Hospital
  • Allied health and Nursing outpatient appointments will be restricted to urgent appointments only
  • Essential medical specialist outpatient appointments will continue.
  • Dental will provide Emergency Appointments only.

The health service has also made an appeal to the community to only present at the Wonthaggi Hospital’s Emergency Department and Urgent Care Centre with emergency health issues such as chest pain and breathing difficulties but “to seek alternative supports” for lesser health issues.

It’s a big call which Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child has sort to temper by urging people “not put off care” if they feel they need urgent help.

“This is a really anxious time for many people. Our staff have achieved extraordinary things over the past few years because we have had extremely thorough plans and committed staff who are skilled and resilient as they deliver our care,” Ms Child said.

“The way our staff have responded to the pandemic over the past 20 months has been nothing short of magnificent.

“We will absolutely get through this new hump because our plans are robust, and these same staff, whilst hugely fatigued, continue to step up to serve their community,” Ms Child said.

“We urge people with emergency health issues such as chest pain and breathing difficulties to come to the Emergency Department and Urgent Care Centre, and not put off care. We also ask people with social and non-urgent needs to seek alternative supports.”

The BCH statement continues as follows:

“Bass Coast Health staff are working extremely hard to keep the community as safe as possible as the Omicron strain of the COVID virus spreads rampantly throughout the community.

“The health service – which services the Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires – has been heavily impacted with more than a 100 staff either positive, having a family member with COVID or being a household contact.

“Some staff are working from home in isolation while they have COVID.

“In a bid to keep services operating, many staff are working 16 hour days, and others are testing and vaccinating hundreds of people each day with little time off to minimise the impact of COVID on our community.”

Ms Child said: “We know Omicron is the majority strain in Victoria and the Bass Coast. I am sure that everyone now knows someone who is positive or who has been a contact.”

“The numbers will continue to grow, and we will continue to have more and more staff impacted. Our staff are our greatest asset and I value the extra effort each and every one of our staff are putting in, during what is an extraordinary time.

“We are trying to get our staff back to work as quickly as we can where they are impacted, and where it is safe to do so.

“We have also put out a call to retired healthcare workers, and people with like skills, to be in touch with our HR team to look at suitability to assist, should we enter a more critical level.

“We are at a very critical juncture. Never before have I known our health care system to be under such duress, and we are preparing for likely worsening as the numbers grow.”

She said Bass Coast Health was continuing to evolve its Business Continuity strategy to ensure critical services remain well and truly open.

Ms Child urged people to get vaccinated if they have not done so already and get their booster/third dose if it’s been four months or more since their second dose.

She said children aged 5-11 can now be vaccinated at the Community Vaccination Clinic at the Wonthaggi Town Hall, via appointment only. Phone 1800 675 398 or online at https://portal.cvms.vic.gov.au/

Please book the appointment under the child’s name, not the parent’s. More appointments will become available over time so please keep trying, and remember to try for an appointment with your GP or with the local pharmacist.

“We know that people who are double vaccinated will not get as sick with Omicron and we know that people who are triple vaxxed are faring extremely well,” Ms Child said.

“We also know the virus is moving through our community via social gatherings, supermarkets, in indoor settings where people are not wearing masks and keeping their distance.

“The best thing people can do is get vaccinated, don’t go near crowds, avoid indoor settings wherever you can and if you must go indoors, wear a mask.”

Ms Child urged people to wear high grade disposable surgical masks that fit them well, instead of cloth masks, which don’t provide as much protection.

BCH’s Emergency Department at Wonthaggi Hospital and Urgent Care Centre at Phillip Island remain open to everyone during the pandemic and operate in a COVID-Safe environment.