Mount Gambier Hospital declares white alert and postpones elective surgery

Mount Gambier Hospital has postponed elective surgery as part of measures to manage staff shortages and high bed demands following a white alert announcement last Thursday.

An alert white is called when the demand for hospital beds exceeds its capacity or the capacity of its staff.

Unlike a code white in metropolitan hospitals, which refers to emergency departments filling up, alert white refers to operations in the background.

Elaine Pretorius, executive director of medical services at Limestone Coast Local Health Network, said the hospital was “full to the brim” with huge demand for beds.

“We have different classifications that range from amber to white – and white is the most extreme,” she said.

“We identified that if we didn’t have a circuit breaker, so to speak, we wouldn’t be able to continue to provide services safely.”

Masks remain mandatory in healthcare settings in South Australia.(ABC Sud-Est SA: Bec Whetham)

Dr Pretorius said staff and patients falling ill caused major problems.

“Over the past few weeks people haven’t been feeling well, we’ve seen quite a bit of flu, there’s a lot of flu right now, and a lot of RSV, as well as COVID,” she said. declared.

“All of this helped create a perfect storm for us.”

A number of circuit breakers have been put in place to help reduce the impact on the hospital, including the postponement of non-emergency elective surgeries.

Surgeries classified as category 2 or 3, such as routine surgeries or joint replacements, have been postponed.

Category 1 surgeries, such as cancer treatment or for people who have been on a long enough waiting list, will continue as normal.

Emergency surgery will also be uninterrupted.

Elaine Pretorius stands outside Mount Gambier Hospital.
Chief medical officer Elaine Pretorius warns the region is at high risk of new COVID-19 cases as Victoria eases restrictions.(ABC South East SA: Selina Green)

Dr Pretorius said several other steps were being taken to manage the alert blank.

“We’re trying to figure out if people really need to be hospitalized or if there are other ways to take care of them,” she said.

“Our extra-hospital services have intensified.

“We can transfer less acute people to Millicent and Naracoorte.

“Having the community support teams for COVID management has also been very helpful.”

Dr Pretorius said staff have been working overtime to cover the growing demand resulting in impacts on their physical and mental health.

“People do double shifts, people go home to sleep and come back,” she said.

“It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for our staff at the moment.”

While hoping the situation would calm down, Dr Pretorious said hospitalizations and serious illnesses after a COVID spike were still lagging and they expected a tough two to four weeks ahead.

A woman with short blonde hair wearing a gray blazer standing in front of a sign for SASMOA
Bernadette Mulholland says the health system was in “total crisis”.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

More resources needed, union says

South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association industry manager Bernadette Mulholland called the situation “worrying” and said postponing non-elective surgeries was “not ideal”.

She said the hospital desperately needed more resources to meet growing patient demand.

“We hope we can find staff very quickly to get this elective surgery back up and running,” she said.

Ms Mulholland said it was important for regional areas to be able to provide patient care to avoid long journeys to cities.

Mount Gambier Hospital is the only center in the region with a white flag, however, Millicent Hospital is also facing staff shortages.

The elective surgery has been canceled since last Friday and the hospital plans to reevaluate the situation on Tuesday morning.

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