The Canberra company contracted to build and run the COVID-19 emergency department at Garran is also in talks with the ACT Government to provide specialists for the elective surgery surge announced earlier this month.
Aspen Medical chair Glenn Keys told the Legislative Assembly committee looking at the ACT’s coronavirus response that the other health care challenge for the Territory was to reduce waiting list times for elective surgery, the less urgent of which had been put on hold earlier in the COVID-19 crisis.
He said the government had made a separate request for staff for the waiting list reduction program, primarily anesthetists.
”We’re delighted that government has led the way and is taking steps to get the waiting list back on track through a surge workforce initiative,” he said.
Mr Keys said the company had considerable experience overseas in helping to reduce surgery waiting lists, particularly in the United Kingdom.
The government says it 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, but the surge has put pressure on available hospital staff.
The number of people waiting for elective surgery in the ACT has been a long-running issue for the government and the pandemic has only worsened the situation.
The COVID-19 disruption meant Canberra Health Services did not met its 2019-20 elective surgery target of 14,250, falling 1750 short.
Canberra Health Services Deputy CEO Dave Peffer said the 2020-21 target was a significant increase on previous years and the health system was exploring all opportunities to bolster its workforce to get the additional surgeries done, including contracting Aspen Medical.
”Our strongest preference is to use our own currently available staff, who have been very supportive over the past few months as COVID-19 has impacted on our services,” he said.
”We have also had preliminary discussions with a number of locum medical agencies, one of which happens to be Aspen Medical, about opportunities to bolster our workforce.
”Aspen Medical has not supplied any medical specialist workforce thus far to Canberra Health Services, nor do we have an agreement with them to supply specialists.”
He said CHS did not yet know how many extra specialists, and in what areas, would be required.
”We are still undertaking needs-based assessments across all specialties,” he said.
Mr Peffer said the ACT conducted public elective surgeries across a broad range of public and private facilities, and any new specialists would likely work across several facilities.
Patients wanting to know their status on the elective surgery waitlist can call the Elective Surgery Hotline on 5124 9889.