Vic health system 'weathering' COVID storm

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas (file image)
Mary-Anne Thomas says Victorian healthcare workers are doing an incredible job in challenging times. -AAP Image

Slightly fewer Victorians are awaiting elective surgery despite what Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas says is one of the worst winters on record due to a horror flu season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The state's wait list for elective procedures has shrunk from a revised 88,920 to 87,275 after the June quarter, according to new data released on Saturday. 

It comes after some Victorian hospitals, including The Alfred and Bendigo Health, delayed or cancelled surgeries in mid-July amid the nation's third Omicron wave.

Any potential impact of their decisions will therefore not be reflected until the next quarterly data batch.

Ambulance Victoria has meanwhile experienced the busiest quarter for code one call-outs in its history, up 16 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The quarter is also the third in succession to break demand records, Ms Thomas says.

Even so, 64 per cent of the 97,928 code ones recorded were responded to within 15 minutes.

Ambulance Victoria interim boss Felicity Topp says the numbers show responses continue to be impacted, the wide spread of Omicron, sicker patients who have deferred care and staff furloughing.

"There are no signs of demand slowing down," she said.

"COVID-19 continues to pose a high risk to Victorians and will do some for some time."

Ms Thomas says there was a 48 per cent rise in the number of planned surgeries in Victoria in the three months to June compared to the corresponding 2021 quarter.

That roughly equates to an extra 20,000 procedures, she told reporters in Melbourne.

"We're in the midst of a record-breaking period of demand on our health system but this latest data shows we are weathering the storm and building a system that will be stronger than ever," she said.

"All our healthcare workers are doing an incredible job under challenging circumstances and this government is ensuring they have all the support they need, to give Victorians the care they deserve faster."

Ms Thomas says there's no quick fix, but the government's $12 billion Pandemic Repair Plan is providing frontline workers with the support and reinforcements needed to come out stronger on the other side.

The strategy was delivering training and recruitment of up to 7000 healthcare staff, including a record number of paramedics and more triple zero call takers.

Patient flow specialists were also being deployed across 12 major hospitals.

Victorian Healthcare Association's Juan Paolo Legaspi says extreme demand appears to be the new norm.

It was time for government to do more to address the system's shortcomings, the policy and advocacy head said.

"We can't just keep asking healthcare workers to 'keep on going' when we know this won't be the last wave of COVID," Mr Legaspi said

"There used to be seasonal peaks and troughs in the intensity of work for our healthcare workers (but) this data shows we are in an unprecedented era of intense demand."