Victoria will pause non-urgent surgeries to deal with rising demand for the public health system, as the state begins recruiting up to 1000 healthcare workers from outside Australia.
Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed that from Thursday, public hospitals would perform only urgent category one and two surgeries.
“As COVID cases increase, we foreshadowed that we will be shifting capacity from the state sector to the private sector, and with that we will be progressively seeking to switch off elements of non-urgent care,” he said.
“This is an unfortunate, but necessary, measure to take account of the increased demand … and we can’t rule out further changes.”
Unlike in 2020, when all elective surgeries were switched off at once, Mr Foley said this year the government had been “progressively” moving capacity out of the health system.
“It will apply differently in the regions and it will apply differently depending where the levels of demand are on those public healthcare systems,” he said.
The private sector had also stepped in to help care for “an increasing number of public critical care cases”, Mr Foley said.
The government will inject $255 million into creating a Hospital Surge Support Allowance for healthcare workers treating COVID-positive patients, of up to $60 per shift for the next four months.
On top of that spending, there will also be another $2.5 million to recruit up to 1000 extra healthcare workers who are living outside the country. It is expected 60 per cent of the recruits will be Australians stranded overseas and 40 per cent international workers.
They will be nurses, doctors, midwives, and allied health workers and will arrive between November this year and March 2022, Mr Foley said.
About 130 overseas healthcare workers have been added into Victoria’s health system since August.
Since recording 1965 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the state’s daily numbers have trended down every day, with another 1466 on Tuesday.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the decline in case numbers.
“It’s terrific to have seen a consistent drop over a few days,” he said.
“It’s not definitive, we can see numbers bounce around and we can see behavioural changes change the numbers a few days later.”
There are 19,627 active cases in Victoria after 68,509 tests on Monday, while 36,383 people were vaccinated at state-run hubs.
Four men and four women died on Monday, bringing the toll from the current outbreak to 101.
There are 675 people in hospital, of whom 144 are in ICU and 100 on a ventilator.