Bendigo Health could start performing non-urgent elective surgeries again early next week, the service's chief executive officer says.
The state government has announced that non-urgent surgeries can resume in regional Victoria from Thursday, in line with the move to step three of the government's reopening plan.
Bendigo Health CEO Peter Faulkner said the surgeries would not begin immediately, as time was needed to plan, prioritise and book cases, but he expected surgical activity to ramp up early in the coming week.
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The hospital will continue to perform pre-surgical COVID-19 testing on patients.
"We're delighted firstly that restrictions are being eased and we will progressively move, as quickly as we can, up to those levels the state government advised," Mr Faulkner said.
From Thursday, regional hospitals can move up to 75 per cent of their usual non-elective surgical activity, and from September 28, to 85 per cent.
Mr Faulkner said Bendigo Health would work with its surgical partners, including Castlemaine Health, St John of God Bendigo, Kyneton Health, to "try and ensure that we can support as much additional surgery as we can".
He said Bendigo Health had been "well on top" of emergency surgery, the urgent category one surgery, and the most urgent of the category two surgery.
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Non-urgent elective surgery patients would be prioritised within their categories according to clinical need first, Mr Faulkner said, and their wait time.
He said the hospital's waiting list had a backlog of about 600 cases, following the halt on non-urgent elective surgery.
"Bendigo Health is well-positioned in many respects to participate in a blitz, to do more than we'd normally do," Mr Faulkner said.
Being a new hospital there were plenty of operating theatres, he said, and the limitation came down to staffing.
"Staffing is always the challenge - if we can get the staff, we can do the surgery," Mr Faulkner said.
Non-urgent elective surgery will resume in regional Victoria from Thursday.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said hospitals were currently operating at about 50 per cent of their usual elective surgery activity, but from September 17, they would be able to increase up to 75 per cent.
This change comes as regional Victoria moves onto the third step of the state government's 'roadmap to reopening'.
From September 28, elective surgery activity will increase to 85 per cent of normal activity, and move up to 100 per cent in the last step of the reopening plan, which is expected to occur in late November.
Ms Mikakos said the plan to resume elective surgery was developed with public health experts and the health sector, and mirrored the government's reopening roadmap.
She said access to surgery would be determined based on clinical need.
All category three and non-urgent category two elective surgeries were postponed when regional Victoria moved to stage three COVID-19 restrictions in early August.
The government says there will also be an elective surgery blitz to catch up on the backlog, when it is safe to do so.
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On Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the number of active COVID-19 cases in Victoria had fallen below 1000 "for the first time in a long time".
There are currently 991 active cases across the state, 37 of which are in regional Victoria.
The number of active cases in regional areas is six fewer than on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, there were two active cases in central Victoria: one each in Greater Bendigo and Macedon Ranges Shire.
The rolling 14-day new case average in regional Victoria is 3.9.
In Victoria there are 107 people in hospital.
Eleven people are receiving intensive care and six are on ventilators.
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