Restrictions on IVF procedures removed, to resume now

By Our Reporter

Following advice from the Chief Health Officer, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures suspended as part of the temporary changes to protect our hospitals will recommence, to help support Victorians who are wanting to start or grow their family.

Some services will restart from today, with hospitals scaling up their operations to enable procedures to resume from 11.59pm on Tuesday, 25 January.

The Chief Health Officer provided advice to the Acting Minister for Health that the restrictions on IVF procedures can be removed—as the specialist nature of the workforce and the facilities and equipment used are not imperative to support the pandemic response at this time.

The Department of Health will work with the Royal Women’s Hospital to prioritise urgent patients – ensuring that the changes do not affect the COVID-19 response in that Hospital.

While the IVF restrictions were in place, services were still available to those who needed to complete a treatment cycle they had started prior to 6 January 2022 or those who required future IVF procedure due to health treatment that would render their eggs non-viable.

Further advice is being sought from the Health Response Centre about other services that may be able to be restored without a critical impact on our current hospital workforce capacity.

Pandemic Code Brown

Meawhile on Tuesday, the government announced a coordinated Pandemic Code Brown that will be implemented across all public metropolitan and major regional hospitals, putting in place a formal emergency management structure to make the best use of hospital resources as Victoria battles the global Omicron outbreak.

Like many around the world, Victoria’s health system is juggling workforce shortages because of staff in isolation, a vast number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalisation, and ongoing treatment for patients with urgent and emergency needs.

With health services asking for further assistance to manage the emergency situation, the Department of Health is calling a coordinated Pandemic Code Brown—with affected public hospitals activating their Code Brown plans by midday on Wednesday, 19 January 2022.

Changes health services can implement include configuring services to free up more staff, including the delivery of outpatient services outside the hospital, and the rapid offload of ambulance patients at emergency departments to get paramedics back on the road as soon as possible. Hospitals may also choose to redeploy staff to work in areas of highest clinical priority.

In addition to hospitals in Metropolitan Melbourne, the Code Brown will be implemented at Barwon Health, Grampians Health, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health, Albury Wodonga Health and Latrobe Regional Hospital.

A coordinated approach to activating Code Brown response plans is necessary to help health services—including Ambulance Victoria—work together rather than in isolation, in the face of overwhelming demand.

Health services and the health workforce will continue to have responsibility for clinical and operational decisions that affect patients and their communities. This includes decisions around how to manage internal patient flow within a health service as well as the assessment, treatment and referral of patients.

Additionally, there will be an expansion of covid streaming sites to increase the number of hospitals caring for coronavirus patients—easing the pressure at hospitals currently handling the most patients.

The Department of Health will also establish a new Health Service Response Centre which will help hospitals coordinate patient flow, distribute activity and support decisions around service reconfiguration—such as suspending some activity or moving to home-based care.

The Pandemic Code Brown is expected to last four to six weeks and health officials will monitor the situation to determine when it’s safe to begin winding down arrangements.

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