A TEMPORARY marquee outside the ambulance bays at Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital will help triage COVID positive and COVID likely emergency patients from later this week.
The hospital has also come into play as a streaming hospital to help take the overflow of COVID patients from across the state, predominantly Melbourne, with COVID ward 2GP now officially a designated red zone.
BHS acute operation director Ben Kelly said the health service was, as it had all pandemic, "preparing for the worst and hoping for the best".
Mr Kelly said the giant white tent near the emergency department was a sign of what might be likely to come - but, at the same time, he would be happy if BHS did not need to use this.
Victoria recorded 2,297 new cases statewide, the first time the daily tally had topped 2000 cases. State health authorities are increasing worried about COVID spread in regional Victoria with 170 new cases, including five in Ballarat to take the city's active COVID tally to 71 active cases.
Finer details for the marquee are still to be confirmed for exactly how it would operate but Mr Kelly said the tent was primarily to help keep COVID and non-COVID emergency patients separate in early assessment, with a surge in community COVID cases expected as restrictions eased.
The well-ventilated tent, which will feature temperature adjustments from the cold or warm summer months, will primarily triage people with mild to moderate COVID symptoms.
"The temporary marquee is us being prepared as can be for what think will be significant demand, specifically for those coming in with respiratory-like illnesses who may or may not be COVID positive," Mr Kelly said.
"I guess one of the things we've been working throughout the whole period is about how we ensure the likelihood of transmission between potentially COVID positive patients and patients who don't have COVID-19 can be managed and making sure adequate space to enable minimal likelihood of transmission."
BHS emergency department has increasingly been under pressure in line with increased demand on emergency health services, including ambulance, across the state.
Mr Kelly assured people should not defer going to the emergency department for emergencies. He also said where possible, people should also check in with general practitioners and primary health care providers, including pharmacies, when feeling unwell before coming to the emergency department.
As a COVID streaming hospital, dedicated hospital beds for COVID patients will feature on a statewide dashboard.
Mr Kelly reassured beds would not be used by metropolitan patients at the expense of Grampians COVID patients. Beds would only be allocated on availability and would likely be for relatively nearby cases, such as overflow from Melton.
BHS' Base Hospital follows Bendigo and Geelong hospitals in taking excess cases.
Mr Kelly said this was largely due to Ballarat's strong vaccination rate, which in turn reduced potential severity in cases and need for hospitalisation for the region's COVID cases.
BHS takes part in a statewide public health network. Mr Kelly said BHS had been able to draw on a lot of learnings from the Shepparton outbreak to best manage Ballarat's initial Delta surge. He also said this was a chance to support other regional cities, like Mildura.
"Becoming a streaming hospital is something our staff feel really strongly about in contributing to the broader effort," Mr Kelly said.
"Because of all the work we've done, we're in a position to be able to play our role as a public Victorian hospital. If that means that we're best place to accept those patients who require hospital care than we will do so.
"Having said that, we could find ourselves in a position where we need assistance from other hospitals because we can't cope with the demand, that reinforces the point that we're all in it together...We obviously prioritise our local Grampians region communities but we also have a greater role to play."
We obviously prioritise our local Grampians region communities but we also have a greater role to play.Ben Kelly, Ballarat Health Services acute operations director
Mr Kelly reiterated vaccination was the Ballarat community's best protection from the deadly virus.
Moderna vaccine was widely available and in strong supply in pharmacies and at the BHS clinic at The Mercure.
Moderna and Pfizer work in the same way and are now available to anyone over the age of 12.
The dose intervals for each vaccine is as follows:
- Moderna: four weeks apart
- Pfizer: three weeks apart
- AstraZeneca: six weeks apart
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.