This article was written by Alexandra Smith for The Sydney Morning Herald. Published June 20, 2022. To read the access the original article, click here.
NSW hospitals will make extra theatres available for elective surgeries on evenings and weekends in a bid to catch up on a significant backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of a $408 million investment in Tuesday’s budget, public hospitals will fast-track elective surgeries that had to be delayed, with some to operate at 125 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity.
A surgery backlog has continued to worsen across the state as non-urgent procedures were cancelled due to the pandemic, with recent analysis showing elective surgery waiting lists are in danger of blowing out to 160,000 patients in the next five years.
Projections from the McKell Institute show the state’s waiting list will hit 160,000 patients in five years, with more than 30,000 people overdue for life-changing treatment such as hip replacements, gall bladder and heart valve replacements.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the funding boost would take the government’s total commitment to reducing wait times to almost $1 billion, which includes previous announcements of more than $530 million during the pandemic.
“This additional $408 million will make a real difference to patients by bringing their surgeries forward,” Perrottet said.
“We will increase elective surgery activity in our public hospitals and continue our collaborative care arrangements with private hospitals, meaning public patients will get faster access to the care they need.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the government’s investment would also boost staff by 267 full-time equivalents and open additional theatre lists at some hospitals on evenings and weekends.
“I want to thank the community for its patience during this most challenging time,” Hazzard said.
“This additional funding will enable the fast-tracking of procedures that were delayed to ensure our health system had the capacity to deal with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Minister for Regional Health and Mental Health Bronnie Taylor thanked the hardworking staff right across the state who continued to provide all emergency surgery and urgent elective surgery throughout the pandemic.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the funding was a boost for the community, but also for the healthcare professionals who provide surgery in NSW.
“Each year in NSW, more than 320,000 people have emergency or elective surgery in our public hospitals,” Kean said.
“By increasing staffing by 267 FTE with this funding, we’re also helping to ease some of the pressure on that dedicated health workforce working so hard to make sure everyone in NSW has timely access to surgical care.
“These additional staff will include doctors, nurses and allied health professionals and extra shifts will also be offered to existing staff to allow extra surgery lists to be completed.”
The government has also announced it will spend $743 million on palliative care and the state’s strained ambulance service will employ more than 1850 extra paramedics as part of a budget boost.