All NSW hospitals’ elective surgery wait times revealed
The elective surgery ban will see the backlog of patients explode to 425,000, with a waiting time of as much as 18 months.
While public and private hospitals have continued to treat around 25,000 urgent category one cases - and some category two surgeries began last week - the ban on "non-urgent" cases since March 26 is having a dramatic effect, experts have warned
"This will almost double the current public waitlist in most states and median wait times could exceed 1.5 years," the report by healthcare analyst Andrew Goodsall from MST Marquee said.
The elective shutdown was announced on March 26 to preserve resources, including protective equipment and help the health system prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases that has not happened.
Mr Goodsall said, assuming 20 per cent of the public hospital system will have to be reserved for COVID-19, only nine per cent capacity will be available for elective surgery, which will further compound waiting lists.
"It is going to be a lot of backlog to put through a smaller capacity because of the ongoing commitment to COVID-19," he said.
"It will put a lot of pressure on hospitals. The average waiting list for category three is 277 days and it's not too much of a stretch to see people waiting a year and a half."
As revealed in The Daily Telegraph last week, patients in Southwestern Sydney have the longest wait in the metro area - 310 days for an elective procedure at Liverpool Hospital. But, while Liverpool is in the top 10 worst performing hospitals in NSW for elective surgery, many country hospitals are worse.
Waitlists are expected to blow out even further as private hospitals, who perform two out of three elective surgeries for those insured, are constrained by new social distancing measures which will only allow hospitals to have 25 per cent bed capacity.
Dr Rachel David, CEO of Private Healthcare Australia, said as of last Monday some category two semi-urgent surgeries had been booked into private hospitals.
"After the Prime Minister clarified the more urgent surgeries should be re-booked, most of that has been started to be re-booked from Monday. We are seeing hip and knee replacements and cataract re-booked. If someone is going blind or they can't walk, they can't wait forever," Dr David said.
Some category two elective surgeries such as coronary artery bypass grafting and heart valve replacement also risk becoming urgent if not seen in the required 90-day period. Category three surgeries are non-life threatening but usually cause pain and distress. Endometriosis and hip and knee replacements are considered category three.
Amanda Clement has stage four endometriosis. She lives in pain, is reliant on opioids and had been looking forward to having the painful growth that had even affected her bowel excised on March 30 at RPA - unfortunately the freeze on elective surgery came in four days earlier.
Ms Clement is one of an estimated 14,900 NSW patients who missed out on elective surgery in just one month of the shutdown.
Ms Clement has no idea when her surgery will be rescheduled.
"Now I am just waiting to get my life back on track, because I am in pain all day," the 42-year-old from Berowra Heights said.
"For me the surgery is the Holy Grail, because in my mind after I have that surgery, I am pain free and can get my life back on track, get a full-time job and be an active person again.
"Because I am in pain constantly, I'm either lying on the couch with a heat pad or taking opioids and so out of it, it's hard."
Dr Tony Sara from the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation NSW said he hoped the National Cabinet would grant more leeway in the coming weeks.
"The waiting times will extend for some of these categories, yes it will make it difficult for some patients but, as a health system, we couldn't do anything else," he said.
"It was already under pressure, the public health system is underfunded, it is driven hard so we do the best we can with the funds available."
Some category 2 procedures such as IVF restarted last week.
Originally published as All NSW hospitals' elective surgery wait times revealed