Ballarat Hospital is set to open a new ward to offer extra beds ahead of an expected busy winter when emergency department staff usually see a peak in presentations.
In a memo to staff sent last Friday, Ben Kelly, Ballarat Health Service's executive director of acute operations announced ward 3 South would be opened for patient admissions.
"It is with optimism that we announce an exciting new expansion in our Health Service, with the imminent deployment of ward based services for patient care on ward 3 South," he wrote.
The ward is proposed to be a 20-bed general medicine ward that will take emergency admissions, medical and surgical patients.
Neighbouring ward 3 North will be reduced from 28 to 24 beds, and ward 2GP will have fewer beds available on weekends.
Mr Kelly said the new ward would offer "extra bed capacity, significantly improving our capability to meet demand pressures from our emergency department and enhance the placement of medical and surgical patients to our wards".
The changes will impact some staffing levels in other wards, with limited redeployment of staff required, but new recruiting would be required to staff the reopened 3 South.
Mr Kelly said recruitment would commence immediately, but the number of new jobs was not immediately available from BHS.
Ward 3 South was originally a surgical ward before it relocated to a ward in the new Gardiner-Pittard Building in February 2017.
It then became a temporary pediatric and adolescent ward for about eight months during 2017-18 while the hospital's children's ward was redeveloped.
It is unclear if 3 South has been in use since the new children's ward opened.
"We are currently working through options with staff about expanding our ward-based services to increase our capacity to deliver services to our community," Mr Kelly said on Wednesday.
The extra beds will help reduce so-called "bed block" when emergency patients requiring hospital admission cannot be moved from ED because there are no available beds.
Of the 15,465 patients admitted to Ballarat Base Hospital from the emergency department during 2017-18, only a third were found a bed on a ward within four hours compared to a 40 per cent average for hospitals of a similar size across Victoria, according to the MyHospital website.
It comes as the number of people presenting to the BHS emergency department continues to boom. During 2017-18 the emergency department treated almost 59,000 patients, up from 51,413 in 2014-15.
During February, Ballarat Base Hospital took the unprecedented move of tweeting to encourage people to visit a general practitioner if their condition was not an emergency as ED staff struggled to keep up with an influx of patients. Plans are underway for BHS to undergo a $461.6 million upgrade including a new emergency department and at least an extra 100 inpatient beds.
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