Ballarat hospital one of two regional Victorian hospitals to receive healthcare staff boost from state government


Regional Victoria has largely missed out on the state government’s new $162-million healthcare package to buoy under-pressure hospitals. 

Premier Daniel Andrews has unveiled a plan that will see 400 additional specialist staff deployed across 12 major hospitals in the state.

Ballarat Base Hospital is the only regional site, other than Geelong, to be allocated the additional resources at this stage.

The extra workers will include offload nurses, triage doctors and discharge coordinators.

“Giving our nurses and doctors an extra pair of hands and making improvements that help patients flow through our emergency departments faster will ensure Victorians get the care they need faster as Australia faces a difficult winter,” the Premier said in a statement yesterday.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews speaking during press conference.
The premier says healthcare systems “around the world” are under pressure.(AAP: Diego Fedele )

According to health authorities, in the first week of July alone there was a cumulative absence of more than 10,000 staff across the system.

Ben Kelly is the chief operating officer of hospitals at Grampians Health, which operates Ballarat Base Hospital, and says he welcomes the extra support.

“Our staff are doing an amazing job, but they are weary. We will work through this new model with the state as details come to hand,” Mr Kelly said.

COVID cases spike, Central Vic among hardest hit

According to state government health data since June 22, there has been a 99 per cent increase in Victorians in hospital with COVID and a 60 per cent rise in coronavirus-related ICU admissions.

Across the state, there are more than 64,300 COVID cases, with 821 of those in hospital. Thirty of those hospitalised are in the ICU as of July 18.

digital map from victorian health department showing amount of active covid cases across state
Many regional Victorian areas have more than 1,000 active cases per 100,000 residents.(Supplied:

Central Victoria has recorded some of the highest COVID case numbers in the state with Greater Bendigo recording 1,457 active cases.

Per 100,000 people, Greater Bendigo has 1,233.8 active cases, while neighbouring Mount Alexander Shire has 1,280.8 active cases per 100,000.

In comparison, Greater Geelong has 1,083.3 active cases per 100,000 people and 2,805 active cases. The region will receive the additional resources at its University Hospital.

In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Health said hospitals were selected for additional funding based on their share of state-wide emergency presentations, potential contributions to system-wide improvements in transfer times and hospital composition and feedback.

“We’re working closely with health services to fill these new roles without compromising capacity across the system,” a department spokesperson said.

Questions over where extra ‘specialist staff’ will be found

John Emmanuel is a general practitioner based in Ballarat and says high COVID infection rates are putting pressure on “all levels of the healthcare system”. 

“Certainly, in the Ballarat region I’m familiar with, we’ve had a lot of difficulties finding adequate staff, nurses and reception staff,” Dr Emmanuel said.

While he welcomes yesterday’s funding announcement, he says the efficacy of the plan hinges on how fast the extra staff can get on the ground.

“It’s the biggest question out of an announcement like this,” he said.

Dr Emmanuel also says the speciality services that have been pledged by the government will require staff who are “well trained”.

“As far as I’m aware … there really isn’t a lot of those staff ready go. They’re already in the system and working at capacity,” he said.

“It sounds like a great idea, but I’m very sceptical that it can be as quickly as it is needed though.”

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