Bendigo Health has opened its doors to COVID-19 patients as the state's hospital network prepares for an influx of cases and hospitalisations in the coming months.
Chief executive Peter Faulkner said Bendigo Health and Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton were the only two regional health care services that would be taking in COVID positive patients.
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"This week Bendigo Health became a streaming hospital for COVID-19 patients and this is a reflection of the new era we are in this pandemic," he said.
"With reduced restrictions, we will see greater cases of COVID-19 in our community and so there is a number of hospitals around the state that have been designated as COVID streaming hospitals and Bendigo Health is one of them."
Mr Faulkner said becoming a streaming hospital would see staff provide patient care and ICU care for the Loddon Mallee region and other parts of regional and rural Victoria.
"We have a COVID ward designated, currently we have some patients already in that ward. We have the capacity to care for up to 20 people easily and ICU our initial capacity is 10 beds."
There are currently four people from a variety of locations in the ward with COVID-19, none are in ICU or on a ventilator.
With COVID-19 cases and hospitlisations continuing to rise, Mr Faulkner said the hospital was ready for any challenges that may be presented.
"We are as prepared as we could possibly be and we have done everything that we can to ensure that our community is kept safe," he said.
"Our hospital is absolutely prepared to manage COVID positive patients as we have done before.
"We feel as prepared as we can be."
In preparation, the emergency department has been divided into respiratory and non respiratory streams for the safety of staff and patients.
Patients will be screened prior to entering the department and sent to the appropriate area.
The department will only be accessible from Drought St.
Adult patients in the respiratory ED stream will be a unable to have visitors unless for compassionate reasons, children can be accompanied by one parent or carer.
If Bendigo Health does reach its capacity over the coming months, Mr Faulkner said the state would then bring other hospitals into the streaming program.
"The modelling shows us that there will be a peak in COVID cases in our community in late October and again in late December," he said.
"We would expect there will be peaks in hospital care required in association with those peaks.
"The best thing we can do is to get our double dose of the vaccination as soon as we can and there is no question that this wave is targeting the unvaccinated and we also know that the unvaccinated are highly represented in hospitals."
Mr Faulkner said the coming few months may be a challenge but thanked all Bendigo Health staff for their hard work.
"Every day is a challenge in this pandemic," he said.
"This has gone on for a long time and I have much respect for our staff and the work that they do but they do it and do it extraordinarily well."
"Always if there is a demand, we will respond by reducing the less urgent services sometimes that could be surgy, it will depend on the demand and we are prepared to do so if needed."
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