Victoria has declared a code brown emergency for all Melbourne hospitals and six regional hospitals as the system buckles under COVID-19 admissions and staff shortages.
A code brown is declared when additional capability and capacity needs to be mobilised to receive an influx of patients due to an external emergency.
The declaration will apply to:
It will come into affect from midday on Wednesday, January 19.
Victorian deputy premier James Merlino said the state had "reached a point in our health system where it's juggling severe workforce shortages".
"Alongside that, an extraordinary workforce that are absolutely exhausted.
"So we've always known that this would be the case, that as we move away from lockdowns and remote learning there will be a strain on our hospital system and we are seeing that play out with significant numbers via the Omicron wave.
"This is all happening alongside the continued need to treat patients with urgent and emergency needs."
He said the co-ordinated code brown approach would "help ease the pressure on individual hospitals by better sharing the load across our system".
It comes as Victoria recorded 20,180 COVID-19 cases, 22 deaths and 1152 patients in hospital.
The new infections confirmed by the health department on Tuesday include 11,747 from rapid antigen tests and 8433 from PCR tests.
It is the second consecutive day case numbers have declined in the state.
It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 235,035 - a fall of about 10,000 cases since Monday.
Tuesday's patient numbers are a decrease of 77 on the previous day.
The number of people in ICU has decreased by two to 127, though 43 people are now on ventilation, an increase of five.
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The code brown will see some services changing to free up staff within hospitals, Mr Merlino said.
He said it would also mean some healthcare workers would be asked to perform different roles than they usually did.
"For example, a nurse or doctor who normally works in elective surgery, which has been scaled back significantly, can now be redeployed, for example, to an emergency department where the case load is much higher."
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton on Monday said hospitalisation numbers were yet to peak, as he predicted that may not be reached for a month.
He said there was a lag of about two weeks between case numbers and hospital admissions, and three weeks for that to translate to ICU figures.
- with Australian Associated Press
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