Quarter of a billion dollar elective surgery blitz

The Palaszczuk Government has announced a quarter of a billion dollars in extra elective surgery after non-urgent surgeries were halted in March.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland Health suspended non-urgent elective surgery following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement in March that all states and territories would stop non-urgent procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic by concentrating all necessary resources on keeping Queenslanders safe,” the Premier said.

“We had to prepare for the worst-case scenario that we have seen play out in China, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“We supported the Prime Minister’s move to suspend non-urgent procedures nation-wide as we prepared for an onslaught of tens of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths – but thanks to the efforts of our community, that did not become a reality for Queensland or Australia.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles said Category Two and Three procedures are less urgent elective surgery and it is clinically recommended that Category two procedures occur within 90 days and category three within 365.

“Suspending Category Two and Three elective surgeries in Queensland – around 50 per cent of all elective surgery activity – was an important step in freeing up capacity and resources for our pandemic response,” the Deputy Premier said.

“But we knew this would have a major impact, so we brought forward those we could during February and March.”

Mr Miles said prior to the pandemic, the majority of Queenslanders were receiving their elective surgery within clinically recommended timeframes.

“Prior to COVID-19, Queensland Health was delivering strong outcomes for its elective surgery patients – with 94 per cent of Category One, Two and Three patients operated on within the clinically appropriate time,” he said.

“Category One surgeries – elective procedures for Queenslanders needing urgent care – remained steady during the pandemic, with approximately 4,000 category one patients seen each month. That’s around the same as last year before COVID.”

As of 1 June, there were 52,240 patients ready for their surgery on elective surgery lists – more than 90 per cent of those were waiting within clinically recommended timeframes.

However, our modelling indicates that we could potentially have more than 7,000 people waiting longer than clinically recommended by 1 July 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

The Deputy Premier said that as part of the $250 million funding commitment, hospitals will move to provide non-urgent procedures outside of regular hours.

“This commitment also complements Metro North’s new Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS), which will provide capacity for an additional 4600 procedures in and 2020-21 and 14,000 by 2021-22.”

Queensland Health Director General Dr John Wakefield said Queensland Hospital and Health Services recommenced non-urgent activity in recent weeks.

“Our hospitals are rapidly increasing services – with elective surgery activity at more than 90 per cent across the system,” Dr Wakefield said.

“Each HHS has to consider their current demand, capacity and availability of personal protective equipment.

“But this $250 million will mean our hospitals will be able to get back to pre-covid levels of elective surgery much sooner than planned, and we will be able to work through the backlog at a much faster pace.

“This investment will require us to expand over and beyond our usual levels of activity, plus work in partnership with the private sector.

“It may take up to 12 months to clear the backlog, but could be longer if we have further disruption to our system, such as a second wave of COVID-19 cases.”

Dr Wakefield said Queensland remained in a positive position, thanks to the community.

“Our clinicians report that patients on the elective wait lists have been incredibly understanding about these challenges,” Dr Wakefield said.

“We switched activity off almost as soon as the Prime Minister made his announcement – people understood why we needed to do that and they trusted us.

“We asked Queensland to work with us to flatten the curve, and Queenslanders delivered above and beyond our expectations.

“It placed our state in the position to start re-introducing non-urgent procedures across our hospitals and community health facilities from late-April.

“Queenslanders delivered for us throughout this pandemic, and now it’s our turn to deliver for them.

“We expect wait list numbers will peak towards the end of June, however given the significance of today’s announcement I’d expect numbers to be trending down by next month.”

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