Four Rapid Access Hubs boost surgical access in $1.5B COVID plan

By Our Reporter
Representative image. Photo by Olga Kononenko on Unsplash

In a groundbreaking move to address the backlog of surgeries exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Allan Labor Government is set to inaugurate four additional Rapid Access Hubs as part of its $1.5 billion dollar COVID Catch Up Plan.

These hubs are expected to support an extra 6,000 planned surgeries annually, marking a significant stride towards enhancing healthcare accessibility in the state of Victoria.

Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas visited The Alfred on Januaru 4, where one of the new hubs will commence admitting patients from today. The other locations announced include Moorabbin Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital, and the Northern Hospital, the latter of which has been fully operational since its opening in September 2023, an official press release said.

These Rapid Access Hubs, strategically placed across key medical facilities, are designed to overhaul the planned surgery system, ensuring more Victorians receive timely and essential surgical interventions. The alternative pathway to care provided by the hubs aims to facilitate on-the-spot procedures and significantly reduce wait times for low-risk surgeries.

With an exclusive focus on planned surgeries, the hubs are poised to alleviate pressure on main theatres, preventing any adverse impact on emergency procedures. Additionally, the initiative is expected to free up valuable medical staff resources, optimizing efficiency in the healthcare system.

Minor upgrades have been undertaken at each hospital to accommodate the new hubs, reflecting the government’s commitment to bolstering the healthcare infrastructure.

The hubs will be used exclusively for planned surgery to relieve pressure on main theatres, avoid impact to emergency procedures and free up staff – with minor upgrades undertaken at each hospital to accommodate:

  • Northern Hospital (now open) – $1 million for new equipment, making an existing theatre space operational to deliver an additional 1,000 procedures annually

  • The Alfred (opening 8 January) – $3.5 million to add an operating room, enabling an extra 1,350 procedures annually, including hernia repairs, cataract removals and joint replacements

  • Moorabbin Hospital (opening May 2024) – $6.1 million for a dedicated orthopaedic surgery centre, featuring up to 12 consulting rooms and a telehealth hub for post-operative follow up, delivering an additional 2,160 orthopaedic admissions annually

  • Royal Children’s Hospital (opening May 2024) – $3 million to support a six-bed increase in overnight stay capacity, supporting an extra 1,560 admissions annually

The new Rapid Access Hubs join the eight sites announced in 2022, with services up and running at six locations – Broadmeadows Hospital, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Sandringham Hospital, St Vincent’s on the Park, University Hospital Geelong, and Werribee Mercy Hospital.

Construction has been completed on two hubs at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Women’s Hospital, with both health services set to begin admitting patients early this year.

To support the COVID Catch Up Plan, the Labor Government is investing in the training and development of 2,500 healthcare workers, as well as an additional 2,500 medical professionals recruited from overseas since 2022.

The benefits of the plan are already being highlighted across the system, with 51,361 patients admitted for planned surgery in the first quarter of 2023/24, decreasing the wait list by a further 3.3 per cent.

All Category 1 patients received their surgery in the clinically recommended timeframes – and median waiting times improved yet again for Category 2 and 3 patients by 21 and 40 days respectively since the same time the year prior.

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