NSW maintains strong elective surgery performance

NSW has achieved a five-year record performance in the number of elective surgeries performed in any first quarter, according to the latest Bureau of Health Information (BHI) Healthcare Quarterly report.

The number of elective surgical procedures performed in NSW public hospitals increased by 7,065 (13.9 per cent) to 58,044 in the January to March 2021 quarter, compared with the same quarter in 2020.

NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said the system has remained focused on fast-tracking surgeries which were unavoidably delayed following the National Cabinet decision to suspend all non-urgent and most semi-urgent surgery in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our public hospitals recorded the highest number of elective surgeries performed for any first quarter over the past five years – this is an extraordinary result and reflects the tremendous efforts of our staff to ensure people receive their elective surgeries on time,” Ms Pearce said.

“Almost all (99.6 per cent) urgent elective surgical procedures were performed on time and we continue to ensure that those who need surgery most receive it quickly.”

Ms Pearce said it is also important to note the BHI report does not include unplanned emergency surgery, including many critical life-saving procedures, which is a major component of the provision of surgical services for the people of NSW, and often more complex and surgically challenging than other elective surgical procedures.

People who receive emergency surgery are not included on the elective surgery wait list, which was down to 88,908 at the end of March from 90,456 at the end of December.

“Though we still have work to do, it is positive that the number of people waiting for their elective procedures has been reduced again,” Ms Pearce said.

Between January and March 2021, there were 759,157 emergency department attendances, which was slightly down by 5,272 (0.7 per cent) compared with the same quarter in 2020.

However, triage category 2 (emergency) presentations were up 5,808 (6.2 per cent) to 99,816. The median time to treatment for patients in this category was nine minutes, unchanged from the same quarter in 2020 and within the 10-minute target.

Triage category 1 patients are the most urgent and almost all are treated within two minutes.

Triage category 5 (non-urgent) presentations were down 9,678 (10.8 per cent) to 80,229, compared with January to March 2020. This drop was mainly due to the subsequent establishment of dedicated COVID-19 testing clinics across the state, reducing testing within emergency departments.

Since March 2020, the NSW Government has committed more than $3 billion to increase the capacity of the health system and ensure it is well placed to manage the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, including $458.5 million to fast-track elective surgeries. This boost in funding has helped bring the 2020-21 Health budget to a record $29.3 billion, or 27 per cent of the total NSW Budget. 

Since 2011, the NSW Government has built or upgraded more than 130 hospitals and health facilities across the State. A further 80 projects are currently underway and more than two-thirds of those are in rural and regional areas. Since 2011, the NSW Government has increased the health workforce by 24,614 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) or 25 per cent. A further 8,300 frontline staff are being added over this term, with 45 per cent going to the regions.

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