Latrobe Regional Hospital is gearing up manage Gippsland’s COVID-19 patients, with modelling suggesting there could be demand for 50 inpatient beds and 15 intensive care unit beds at the peak of this wave.LRH chief executive Don McRae said there would initially be nine inpatient beds and two intensive care unit beds — with the capacity to scale up to 64 inpatient beds and 30 ICU beds. He said there would be a ventilator available for each ICU bed. LRH is the designated ‘streaming’ hospital for Gippsland, taking in COVID-19 patients, including those from Sale, Bairnsdale and further east. Mr McRae said if there was spare capacity, the hospital may also be expected to help out with any overflow from the metropolitan area, given the challenges already being faced by Melbourne hospitals. A birthing room has also been created for COVID-positive women who need to have their baby delivered “in an emergency”. But LRH is not a streaming hospital for birthing women who are COVID-19 positive — they will continue to be supported by Monash Health. Women who do not have COVID-19 will still be able to have their baby at LRH. Mr McRae said the planning to make LRH a streaming hospital had been underway for the past month, and would “build upon the processes that were established in 2020-21”. “Planning, however, has shifted towards better managing the Delta variant, which is airborne” he said. “While our systems were robust to handle last year’s variant, Delta is much more infectious and able to be transmitted more freely. As a result, changes have been made to the layout of the LRH’s emergency department to enable COVID patients to be more efficiently separated from non-COVID patients. In addition, a marquee has been set up near the main emergency department entrance specifically for COVID patients to be triaged before they enter the hospital. Mr McRae said COVID patients receiving medical care in the hospital’s inpatient units would be “sealed off” in a negative pressure zone to reduce the risk of the virus escaping. “Portable HEPA Filters are being introduced to clean the air in some areas of the hospital,” he added. The hospital has also bought Medihoods, which are almost like plastic pram covers. “They go over a patient’s bed and have a fan-filter exhaust unit, creating a mini negative pressure room over the patient,” Mr McRae explained. “These are being used in metro hospitals and are able to draw out 99.1 per cent of aerosols.” There are currently 239 active COVID-19 cases in Gippsland — 121 in Latrobe, 101 in Baw Baw, 10 in South Gippsland, three in Bass Coast, three in Wellington Shire, and one in East Gippsland. There are currently eight tier one exposure sites in Latrobe, seven in Baw Baw and no public exposure sites in the other local government areas. A total 1612 news cases were announced in Victoria this morning, bringing the total active cases to 19,012 statewide. There were eight deaths from COVID-19 recorded across Victoria on Sunday. On Saturday, Victoria broke its daily new cases record, with 1965 cases reported.