Victorians are being asked to avoid going to hospital unless absolutely necessary as nursing shortages create mayhem in the State’s health system.
Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital this week reported waiting times of up to 12 hours for non-urgent emergency department patients.
The situation prompted hospital chief executive Bernadette McDonald to tell parents they should consider alternatives before taking their children to the emergency department.
"We would never turn anybody away, I just need to make that really clear,” she said.
"It does, unfortunately, mean that when we have the challenges like last night, some people who are less clinically urgent will have to wait a long time."
Staff have been asked to work extra shifts to cover the shortage of staff. Meanwhile, unvaccinated nurses are still not permitted to return to work.
McDonald said it “could be days” before patient waiting times returned to normal.
"We encourage parents to think about where's the most appropriate place to take my child, do I have to take my child to the Royal Children's, could care be given somewhere else just as safely, and just as great care if they're not critically unwell?" she said.
Victoria's Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas admitted the hospital was under pressure because of staff shortages.
"My understanding is that we are approaching the peak of this current wave of COVID and that's good news for all of us," she said.
"It also means, of course, we should expect to see less staff not being able to present to work."
Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president Clare Skinner said funding was needed to recruit more nurses.
"But I think we need a really big focus on retention and the health and wellbeing of our current staff that are working in very difficult conditions," she said.
Dr Skinner said nursing shortages were a problem across the entire country.