South West Healthcare has started moving non-COVID patients to the nearby St John of God Warrnambool Hospital in anticipation of looming staff and bed shortages.
SWH recently boosted its COVID ward from 10 beds to 18 and said it had plans in place to boost that number further, but as other wards started hitting capacity, it had to start relocating patients in order "to continue its role of admitting patients".
In a media release, SWH suggested the Omicron COVID-19 wave was yet to peak in the south-west, saying the decision to start moving patients to SJGWH on Monday was necessary "to prepare for a predicted Omicron peak".
The relocation program will last for four weeks initially, and will be reassessed regularly.
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"This arrangement between Warrnambool's two hospitals to work together is a co-ordinated response," SWH chief executive Craig Fraser said.
SWH said patient care would not be affected and that the transferred patients would still be treated by their normal doctors, who would visit SJGWH.
The patient transfer is the first time the two hospitals have shared resources, staff or even medical equipment.
Staff at both hospitals have had to take on extra shifts through the latest wave of the pandemic. Mr Fraser thanked the workforce of both hospitals "for being such wonderful partners in healthcare and for stepping up and taking on extra shifts to care for additional patients.
Mr Fraser stressed neither hospital had declared a code brown and "are able to manage the current caseload", however he anticipated further stress on the local health system.
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