BALLARAT Health Services could reintroduce some day surgery procedures at its Base Hospital from as early as next week while still maintaining preparations for a COVID-19 surge.
While the city has had no new coronavirus cases in three weeks, BHS acute operations executive director Ben Kelly said looking overseas showed how rapidly this situation could escalate from being manageable in a community.
BHS is reviewing surgeries that could safely be reintroduced following the Victorian and federal government announcements this week category two and three surgeries could step up after the Anzac Day weekend.
This could include IVF procedures, post-cancer reconstruction procedures, eye procedures and cataracts, endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures, some dental procedures, joint replacements and screening programs for cancer. Such procedures were put on hold last month in a bid to both better protect health workers and the community and to prepare for a COVID-19 response.
Victoria's preventative work - largely by people staying at home - has given hospitals time to prepare.
BHS, in a statement to media, said bringing back elective surgeries would take time as the health service had been working in collaboration with St John of God Hospital Ballarat in delivering some surgeries the past month.
Patients on a wait list, or who had their surgery cancelled amid the pandemic, are urged to be patient. They will be notified if and when surgery might be possible. All patients must first be screened and test negative for COVID-19 first.
This comes as the number of people seeking treatment at BHS' emergency department is down about one-third, from an average of 200 people per day, during the pandemic.
While work, school and sports injuries have dropped with people isolating at home, BHS has confirmed those who are presenting to emergency are predominantly sick.
Those who are sick are urged to contact nurse-on-call or their general practitioner for non-emergency needs.
Anyone experiencing fever, chills, a sore throat, cough, fatigue or shortness of breath should call the national COVID-19 hotline: 1800 675 398
Meanwhile, BHS continues to act on the advice of the Victorian Health Department and experts for its aged care facilities. As such, BHS will only consider re-opening plans to visitors once confident it can protect its residents.
This comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for a relaxing of restrictions on aged care to improve the mental health and well-being for residents.
BHS, in a statement, was concerned a COVID-19 surge in this community remained a strong possibility based on examples overseas following a relaxation in social isolation restrictions.
"This is concerning, as international data indicates 30 per cent of aged care residents appear to be asymptomatic while positive, and 52 per cent of reported deaths have been older people living in residential care or assisted home living," the statement read.
"With this information in mind, BHS will only activate the re-opening plan once we are confident we can protect the health of those residing in our facilities."
- BHS' COVID-19 fever clinic will be closed on Anzac Day (Saturday) and reopen on Sunday, 9am-1pm
- The fever clinic, based at BHS' public dental site in Sebastopol, runs Monday to Friday, 9am-5.30pm with limited hours on weekends. Appointments: 5320 8889
- UFS fever clinic at Lucas Community Hub runs Monday to Friday. Appointments: 4311 1571
- If you are on a wait-list or had your surgery cancelled during the pandemic, BHS will contact you if and when your surgery can go ahead
- All patients will be screened for COVID-19 prior to surgery, using the new state-wide agreed screening tool
- People who have tested positive to COVID-19 cannot have surgery until they test negative
- Patients are encouraged to work with their general practitioner on a pain management program
- BHS will only start its re-opening plan for visitors to its aged care facilities at the directive of the state's health officials.
- Well-being and social engagement during this time is being managed creatively by staff. This includes online initiatives and extra mobile devices. Residents have also been receiving community letters and artwork.
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