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How does the ‘Code Brown’ effect Victoria’s Public Healthcare System Workers

3 min read

31 Jan 2022

From midday, Wednesday, the 19 of January 2022, a Pandemic Code Brown came into effect in Victoria. This was followed by Victoria’s Acting Health Minister James Merlino, announcing the State-wide Emergency Response Plan in place, to help resource the public healthcare system.

What is a ‘Code Brown’?

This ‘Code Brown’ was implemented to alleviate pressure in the health care system from current and predicted surges in Covid-19 case numbers, granting hospitals powers to make unilateral decisions to help manage their resources and employees.

Justified through reports of staff shortages in healthcare and growing admissions, this ‘Code Brown’ is anticipated to last for 4 to 6 weeks. However, the State will be closely monitoring the COVID-19 climate to ultimately determine when it is both safe and practical to ‘step down’ from such arrangements.

What changes can Healthcare Workers expect?

If you are employed by a public hospital in Metropolitan Melbourne as well as any affected regional hospital (Barwon Health, Grampians Health, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health, Albury Wodonga Health and Latrobe Regional Hospital) you may be affected by the following changes.

  1. Altered duties to assist in ‘freeing up’ more staff;
  2. Outpatient service delivery outside the hospital;
  3. Rapid offload of patients to ensure paramedics can be back on the road as soon as possible; and
  4. Redeployment in areas of highest clinical priority.

Currently, no evidence has been provided documenting whether an employer can force you to return from leave.

However, for any adjustment to leave, a respectful discussion must be held between workers and their respective employers about the leave and potential adjustment. It is recommended that such drastic measures should be used only where absolutely necessary.

What are the obligations of your employer?

If you are affected by any of the changes previously discussed, you may be questioning how you are being supported by your employer within this period of uncertainty.

The more efficient management of resources outlined terms of the emergency code ensures hospitals can better delegate staff.  As such you may be subject to redeployment.

If your position is being considered for redeployment, your employer is required to ensure adequate support and education materials are available to you throughout the transition.

Whilst the healthcare system is facing unprecedented external pressures, employers need to ensure their employees are well supported and able to deliver the highest level of patient care.

If you need Advice on Employment Law

If find yourself feeling anxious about your redeployment, or unsupported, our employment team are able to advise you and offer you assistance in dealing with these matters.

Please do not hesitate to contact our employment lawyers for assistance.

Our employment lawyers are skilled in assisting employees and can give you quick advice on how to approach these difficult issues.

Speak to a lawyer on 1300 907 335 or complete an online enquiry form and we will contact you promptly.

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