Since the implementation of an ICU -led ECMO service in 2011, UHG’s program has grown to become the second busiest in Victoria. This potentially life-saving therapy is used to treat people who suffer from severe heart of lung failure and is only able to be provided at a select number of Australian hospitals. UHG is in the unique position of being able to offer this treatment to the community in our region, as well as being part of the State ECMO referral network.

The unit has now treated close to 200 patients, representing considerable experience and evolving expertise. The last 18 months has seen a significant surge in activity, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ECMO was deployed in cases of very severe lung failure in the sickest of Victorias’s COVID-19 patients.

Outcomes continue to be in line with world’s best practice, and collaboration with the State ECMO Centre in Melbourne provides a robust training and governance process.

We remain dedicated to expanding and improving our ECMO program, as we strive to respond to the needs of a growing population in our region.

COVID-19 presented great challenges to health care across the world. Victorians were fortunate to have a recently established statewide referral system for those with the severest respiratory failure due to the pandemic. The Victorian ECMO Service (VECMOS) is a collaboration between multiple hospitals, Safer Care Victoria and Adult Retrieval Victoria (ARV). UHG was instrumental in contributing to load balancing across the state’s Intensive Care Units acting as a destination for a selection of the sickest patient’s potentially requiring, or already placed on ECMO by VECMOS’s retrieval service. The impact of this is demonstrated by our ECMO days (number of patient days on ECMO) as shown by this graph.

The VECMOS network consists of three tiers of hospitals. UHG is one of only two Tier 2 centres in the state along with the Royal Melbourne Hospital and works closely with the State’s Tier 1 centre, The Alfred.