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Health Minister Must Act on Elective Surgery

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Friday, 11 September 2020

Tags: Health, Elective Surgery, Hospitals

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson

Public elective surgery waiting lists are now spiralling out of control, and Health Minister Sarah Courtney must commit to using Tasmania’s private health system to bring them down.

The number of patients admitted for emergency procedures from the elective surgery waiting list has jumped a shocking 28% in the period June 2019 to March 2020.

The average overdue days waiting for admission for Category 1 patients shot up by nearly 63% in the same period.

When people are denied life-saving urgent care for long periods, it’s not surprising – but totally avoidable – they end up needing emergency surgery. Category 1 patients are classified as needing urgent care, but many are being left on the waiting list for months.

It’s particularly concerning these numbers predate the COVID-19 period. The impact of the pandemic response by slowing and limiting hospital operations will undoubtedly contribute to elective surgery waiting lists continuing to balloon.

Earlier this year, the Commonwealth Government announced a framework for states to use private hospitals as an extension of the public health system. This plan started with $1.3 billion funding but was uncapped. It explicitly referenced elective surgery.

Minister Courtney has previously made vague statements about contract negotiations with Tasmania’s private hospitals, but hasn’t laid out a plan for how the resources of these hospitals will be used in the interests of all Tasmanians. 

We don’t want COVID-19 to further burden our hospital system, and the Minister needs to plan for more than a case by case basis. She needs to commit to bringing down the whole elective surgery waiting list so that it’s within the nationally accepted medical timeframes.   

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for our health system, and our response needs to meet this challenge head on. The Minister must deploy all available facilities and resources – including from the private hospital system - to make sure the impact of this pandemic does not continue to burden Tasmanians who need urgent healthcare for years to come.