2 July 2020

$30 million health injection will boost elective surgery

| Ian Bushnell
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Surgery at Canberra Knee Clinic

Surgery at Canberra Knee Clinic. The private and public systems will work together to clear the backlog. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government is aiming for more than 16,000 elective surgeries to be performed across the public and private systems this financial year as part of a $30 million coronavirus catch-up plan for health services in the Territory.

It says this funding will also deliver more outpatient appointments and more medical procedures to meet the pent-up demand following the suspension of many Category 2 and 3 services in March.

Other additional services include 14,000 more specialist outpatient appointments, up to 679 additional endoscopy procedures, and targeted school checks for kindergarten children focusing on hearing and vision.

It will also mean 2600 child development checks through Maternal and Child Health (MACH) Clinic and up to 1900 dental appointments, targeting people with special needs, children and vulnerable community groups.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said Canberra’s health services were working to tackle the backlog as well as increasing surgery numbers over the next 12 months.

The number of people waiting for elective surgery in the ACT has been a long-running issue for the government and the pandemic only worsened the situation.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the COVID-19 disruption meant Canberra Health Services had not met its 2019-20 elective surgery target of 14,250, falling 1750 short.

She said it was hoped that with a collaborative effort between the public and private hospitals the system would catch up by the end of this financial year, and deliver 1750 more surgeries than the 2019-20 target.

She said this was about the equivalent of running two extra theatres for 250 days over the next 12 months.

”We have a very strong partnership with private hospitals in the ACT. This puts us in a solid position to leverage the facilities and resources of the private health system as we continue to catch-up on elective surgery,” she said.

As of midnight 30 June 2020, the number of people on the elective surgery waitlist across public and private hospitals is 5677.

AMA ACT president Dr Antonio Di Dio welcomed renewed government attention to elective surgery and urged the government to continue to closely monitor outpatient waiting times for clinics.

He said that although COVID-19 had had a dramatic effect, the waiting-list problems already existed before the pandemic.

”We thank the Health Minister and Chief Minister for acknowledging this and acting. Creativity is required in using the funds efficiently plus we must be efficient in triage and prioritising the right patients to get through the queue. This will involve good communication,” he said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said Canberra Health Services was prepared to cope with any Victoria-like surge in COVID-19 cases and to wind back high-risk services again if necessary, but the ACT was in a strong position to continue recovering from restrictions.

Patients wanting to know their status on the elective surgery waitlist can call the Elective Surgery Hotline on 02 5124 9889.

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