Latrobe Regional Hospital will enter Code Brown

Alyssa Fritzlaff

From midday tomorrow Victoria’s metropolitan hospitals and some regional hospitals will enter a Pandemic Code Brown, including Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH).

Minister for Health James Merlino made the announcement at today’s press conference.

“Our hardworking health workers on the front-line are caring for record numbers of coronavirus patients every day – this is the best way to ensure our hospitals can continue to safely care for those that need it most,” he said.

“Our health services will have to make some hard decisions over the next few weeks to manage increasing demand and I thank every single one of them for making the tough calls necessary to help as many Victorians as they can.”

Each hospital has individual Code Brown plans, which they have been instructed to implement by 12pm on Wednesday January 19.

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

Under the Code Brown, changes in hospital operations may be implemented, such as configuring services to free up more staff, delivery of outpatient services outside the hospital, and rapid offload of ambulance patients at emergency departments to get paramedics back on the road as quickly as possible. Staff may also be redeployed to areas with the highest clinical priority.

These changes are intended to help hospitals, Ambulance Victoria, and other healthcare services cope with overwhelming demand caused by the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Latrobe Regional Hospital Chief Executive Don McRae said the Pandemic Code Brown will allow feasible measures to be applied to LRH, and will enable the hospital to continue to response to escalating patient numbers – not just patients with COVID-19.

“LRH has been following a ‘Code Brown’ plan for some weeks to give us additional capacity and resources to care for the community,” he said.

“This has meant calling staff back from leave or redeploying staff. LRH has also changed bed numbers and the structure of some inpatient units to cater for an influx of patients.”

“Our community can help relieve some of the pressure on LRH by considering whether their presentation to the Emergency Department is really necessary. I appreciate the concern some people may have if they test positive to COVID-19 but in most cases, symptoms such as fatigue, a cough, runny nose or aches and pains may be managed easily at home.”

Mr McRae said the hospital still encourages people with severe symptoms, illnesses or injuries to come to the emergency department.

“However I really want our community to understand our bed numbers, resources and staff are stretched to the limit,” he added.