Ambulances diverted

Sunshine Hospital, St Albans. Photo by Damjan Janevski. 247142_01

Tara Murray

COVID-related staff shortages resulted in ambulances being diverted away from two Western Health hospitals for a number of days.

Western Health chief executive Russell Harrison confirmed on Wednesday that ambulances were being diverted away from Sunshine and Footscray hospitals for “approximately 24 hours.“

There is a possibility that could be extended. Both hospitals still accepted emergency department presentations during that time.

Mr Harrison said the decision was supported by Ambulance Victoria and the Department of Health.

“As a result of high numbers of community exposure sites across the region where a large number of our staff live, there are now more than 280 staff furloughed across the hospitals and services we run,” he said.

“About 50 of those staff are furloughed due to the exposure sites within the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s at Sunshine Hospital.

“Western Health is working to minimise the impact on patients with the support of other hospitals and health services across the metropolitan network.”

Ambulance Victoria union secretary Danny Hill said while it was the right decision, it put pressure on other nearby hospitals.

“They don’t have enough staff,” he said.

“It overwhelms other hospitals and sends more people to other hospitals like Werribee.

“It leads to ramping and delays in attending other cases.”

Mr Hill said there needs to be reserve staff to fill shifts, but with many hospitals already having a shortage of staff, it makes it hard to fill shifts.

“We have to protect healthcare workers,” he said.

“This is what happens when [COVID-19] gets into a hospital. This is why it is so important for everyone to get vaccinated.“

Western Health has also temporarily paused walk-in vaccinations at Sunshine Hospital due to the high number of exposure sites in the west.

Tara Murray