‘Code brown’ for major Victorian public hospitals, NSW health minister target of fraudulent RAT results

By Jackson Graham

January 18, 2022

Brad Hazzard
NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard. (AAP Image/Brendon Thorne)

All public metropolitan and major regional hospitals will be declared a “code brown” in Victoria, allowing them to cancel healthcare workers’ leave to fill staff shortages. 

The Department of Health will call the co-ordinated pandemic code brown from midday, Wednesday, January 19. 

The setting allows health services to redeploy staff to work in areas of highest need, freeing up paramedics by allowing them to rapidly offload ambulance patients at emergency departments, and permits outpatient services to be delivered outside of hospitals. 

Healthcare workers will likely be working in different parts of hospitals, on different rosters, and could expect consultation from managers about any leave arrangements. 

Acting health minister James Merlino said the setting was needed as severe workforce shortages and rising coronavirus patients put the hospital system under “extreme pressure”. 

“We have more than 4000 healthcare workers unavailable right now, alongside a vast number of patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalisation, [and] alongside that an extraordinary workforce who are absolutely exhausted,” Merlino said. 

“We have always known this would be the case, as we move away from lockdowns and remote learning there will be a strain on our hospital system, and we are seeing that play out particularly via the extreme numbers from the Omicron wave.” 

Victoria recorded 20,180 cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, 1152 people in hospital, and 22 deaths. 

Merlino said it was believed the biggest increases in hospitalisations were yet to come. 

“COVID hospitalisations are already at record levels, and as we’ve seen in NSW that’s likely to increase by around 100 people per day,” he said. “We will see the peak in hospitalisations and ICUs over the next two to four weeks.” 

NSW recorded 29,830 cases, 2850 people in hospital and 36 deaths.

Health minister Brad Hazzard revealed on Tuesday that he had been among people targeted by false reports to NSW Health and Services NSW about positive rapid antigen tests results.  

“There were some sensible steps taken by our public health team, they are a big team and work very hard, but some of the steps that some people in the community take to undermine those steps are really, really disappointing,” Hazard said. 

“I received notification yesterday, and again today, from Services NSW and again from Health, that apparently somebody has put my name in there as being a positive rapid antigen test. 

“It’s extremely irresponsible, you’re undermining what the public health team is trying to do here to keep the entire community safe.” 

He warned there was a $5000 fine for anybody who misrepresents any facts to NSW Health. 

“The police will come hunting, and if you’re caught you will cop a $5000 fine,” Hazzard said. 

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said of the 36 people who had died in the state from COVID-19 in the latest daily figures, 33 were vaccinated and three were not. 

Of those vaccinated, Chant said they had “generally” not received a booster dose. “I really want the community to have a sense of urgency in going and getting boosted,” she said. 

The Public Health Association of Australia this week praised the efforts of South Australia after data suggested modest public health measures had flattened the Omicron curve in that state. 

“If that assessment is true then all other states, and particularly those down the east coast, should, as a matter of urgency, adopt similar strategies to those in SA,”  said the association’s chief Terry Slevin.

SA on Monday recorded 3829 cases in the previous 24-hours, 227 people in hospital and no deaths. 

The restrictions came into effect on Boxing Day 2021 and require one person per 4-square-metres for indoor seated hospitality, only 10 people in private homes, and mask mandates for indoors and high-risk settings.

Slevin called for external analysis of the circumstances in SA compared to other states.


READ MORE:

Public hospital funding needs ‘deeper’ reform than COVID boost, report says

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