Victoria’s health system preparing for COVID-19 pandemic

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Melbourne: The state’s health system is preparing itself for an emerging COVID-19 pandemic with a new plan to manage more cases and the growing risk of an outbreak in Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos joined Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton on Tuesday to release the COVID-19 Pandemic Plan for the Victorian Health Sector.

Victoria has a world-class health system that is well-prepared to deal with an outbreak. But with successful measures reducing the impact of COVID-19 in other parts of the world, Victoria must learn from these lessons and act early and decisively in limiting the disease’s spread.

Reducing the peak of cases is vital to maintaining the overall capacity of our health system – making sure that at the same time we look after COVID-affected Victorians, we can also continue to care for non-COVID related patients, including newborn babies and Victorians facing serious illnesses like coronary conditions or cancer.

The Plan sets out a comprehensive, four-stage response to COVID-19. The first stage of the response, which Australia is in now, focuses on containment ­– identifying any possible cases and isolating those who are infectious, as well as their close contacts.

Some of the immediate measures introduced include dedicated screening clinics and increased testing at more Victorian labs – with healthcare workers who are unwell given priority so they can get that all-clear and get back to treating their patients sooner.

Further stages of the plan set out actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Victorian community, manage demand on hospital resources, respond to a severe outbreak and recover as quickly as possible.

These measures may be disruptive and wide-ranging, including dedicated coronavirus wards in hospitals, increasing telehealth medical consultations, cancelling large public gatherings or closing schools and universities.

None of these decisions will be taken lightly and must be proportionate to the threat. But as we prepare for the significant risk that COVID-19 poses – particularly for elderly and vulnerable Victorians – our state must be ready.

Victorians are also being asked to consider how they’ll manage if they become unwell or require isolation, including working remotely, managing food and medication, and the potential need to isolate individual family members.

Everyone has a role to play – people should wash their hands with soap and water, and cover your nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough with a tissue or elbow.  Importantly, those who are sick should not go to work to minimise the potential of spreading the infection – particularly health workers who look after our most vulnerable.

If you are concerned, call the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. For more information, visit dhhs.vic.gov.au/novelcoronavirus.

(Media release)