Loddon Mallee residents will be better protected against a potential outbreak or second wave of coronavirus after health services in the region combined to create a regional pandemic plan.
The Loddon Mallee Cluster Plan combines the resources of 18 public health services, two private hospitals, five community health services, two bush nursing centres, Ambulance Victoria and the Primary Health Network to effectively treat and move patients if localised outbreaks of COVID-19 occur.
In a worst-case outbreak scenario, the resources of the region include a daily capacity for more than 80 Intensive Care Ventilated beds, approximately 900 general ward beds and close to 400 Emergency Department presentations.
Bendigo Health is the lead agency in the LM Cluster Plan, which provides guidance on staff training and how health services can adapt their models of care during a pandemic.
Bendigo Health Chief Executive Officer Peter Faulkner said the plan was an important step forward in protecting the wider community against COVID-19.
“It gives health services in the region the confidence of knowing how to effectively respond if a second wave occurs. Understanding your specific role in a regional approach to a pandemic is vital,” he said.
“By helping flatten the curve and practicing social distancing, the community has given us time to create this plan. We thank them for doing the right thing and helping us become better prepared.
“The cluster plan is an additional piece of work done to prepare the region for COVID-19.”
As part of the plan, health services are classified on their capacity to care for COVID-19 patients at different stages of an outbreak.
Bendigo Health, Mildura Base Hospital and St John of God Hospital Bendigo are the intensive care hubs for the region, Echuca and Swan Hill hospitals have higher level acute medical care while the remaining 14 rural health services can provide acute and community-based care for COVID-19 patients.
The LM Cluster Plan also caters for a sharing of services for high-risk patients in areas like oncology, dialysis and maternity should a localised outbreak impact service delivery for a specific health service.
The plan provides information on COVID-19 assessment (screening and testing) clinics and best- practice approaches to outbreaks in residential care facilities.
Mallee Track Health and Community Service Chief Executive Officer Lois O’Callaghan said the LM Cluster Plan gave health services a structured mechanism for a pandemic response.
“We can draw on our bigger sub-regional partners in the event we have a surge in COVID-19 numbers and this plan identifies the pathways on how we should work together,” she said.