Canberra's hospitals will cut all elective surgeries except for the most urgent and cancel public system outpatient appointments in a bid to free up clinical capacity.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said they were difficult but necessary decisions to make in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Work is also underway in the ACT to secure more intensive care beds and order more ventilators to deal with any influx of seriously ill patients.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday states and territories had agreed to suspend all category three and most category two surgeries to create more hospital capacity.
The move applies to both public and private hospitals.
Canberra Health Services CEO Bernadette McDonald said the most clinically urgent patients would still be treated.
She said the cancellations would not only free up hospital space, but allow staff to train and become more prepared for an influx of patients.
Ms McDonald said ACT's health system could support more than 120 intensive care unit beds - more than double its current capacity.
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She said an overseas order for 20 ventilators had been placed and she was looking at ways to order more.
"Just like everyone else you put an order in and go in the queue," Ms McDonald said.
Canberra Hospital will send 28 patients to Canberra University Rehabilitation Hospital, while Calvary Public will send two, in a bid to free up more acute beds.
From Thursday, Canberra Health Services out-patient appointments that clinicians deem to be non-essential will be either cancelled or postponed. Essential appointments will be converted to virtual appointments where possible.
Canberra Health Services is contacting patients whose appointments or treatments are affected. Ms Stephen-Smith said no patient would lose their spot on the wait list as a result of these actions.
Patients who are not contacted should attend for their previously confirmed appointment.
The decision to suspend unnecessary surgeries was quickly welcomed by the Australian Society of Anaesthetists.
"The only way Australian hospitals can effectively prepare for an influx of patients is if we have the time to devote resources to this preparation," president Suzi Nou said.
"We believe that the health system is not yet ready to cope with the likely massive demand for our services."
But Dr Nou said this was just the start and further action with containment measures would be needed.
Category one and two surgeries are classified as urgent and semi-urgent respectively, while category three surgeries are recommended to take place inside a year.
Mr Morrison said only urgent category two cases would be allowed for surgery.
- With AAP
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