A resurgence of Covid-19 is putting pressure on the healthcare system in the Australian state of Victoria. In response, the state government has advised hospitals to keep surgical activity at 75% of pre-pandemic levels to ensure there is sufficient capacity to treat Coronavirus patients. But could there be another solution?
The state government had planned to give all Victorian hospitals the green light to return to 100% of their usual elective surgery operating room capacity in July, in line with other Australian states and territories. But in recent weeks, almost two dozen people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in Victoria, including doctors, nurses and paramedics.
Last week, a delay in the return to pre-Covid elective surgery levels was announced, and hospitals were advised to remain at 75% of elective surgery activity to ensure hospitals are able to provide lifesaving care should there be a continued rise in coronavirus cases.
The restriction on public hospitals will remain until further notice, and the state's plan to catch up on its expanding hospital waiting list has been put on hold, meaning patients waiting for elective surgery in Victoria's public hospitals will face even longer waiting times.
Analysis by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age estimates that around 120,000 people will have been added to public hospital waiting lists during the shutdown period, including about 36,000 in Victoria (a 71% increase) and about 32,400 in NSW (a 36% increase).
However, by using flexible healthcare solutions, such as mobile and modular operating rooms, hospitals would be able to keep elective surgery activity at 100% and prevent waiting lists from growing, while maintaining crucial Covid-19 capacity within the hospital building.
A temporary operating room can be situated in the car park or other suitable area adjacent to the hospital and can be made operational very quickly in response to an urgent need, such as a localised outbreak of Covid-19, putting pressure on local healthcare resources.