18 May 2022

Elective surgeries to be postponed as hospitals struggle under pressure

| Lottie Twyford
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Canberra hospital

Elective surgeries will be postponed in coming days as the Territory’s healthcare system struggles to manage demand. Photo: Region Media.

Some elective surgeries at both Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital will need to be postponed as the healthcare system struggles under the pressure of COVID-19 patients and other demands.

ACT Health has once again urged Canberrans to leave emergency departments for emergencies and instead visit a GP, walk-in centre or use other services for non-urgent healthcare.

The Territory’s Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said emergency surgery would need to be prioritised, meaning some surgeries may have to be postponed.

The move follows an announcement in early May that the ACT’s private hospitals would take some public patients in a bid to ease some of the sustained pressure on the public system.

Under the agreement, up to 28 additional ACT public hospital patients were to be treated in private hospitals for six weeks.

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Yesterday, there were a record 80 people in the Territory’s hospitals with COVID-19 and more than 6000 active cases in the community.

The rolling mean for new daily COVID-19 infections remains around 900 cases a day.

Health authorities are also preparing for what could be a spike in COVID-19 cases coupled with an increase in other seasonal illnesses, including influenza.

The public health system has now been under pressure for some time. This has been partly attributed to COVID-induced staffing shortages but health authorities have also noted an increase in presentations related to other illnesses.

Late last month, Ms Stephen-Smith said random spikes in presentations to the emergency departments were ongoing.

vaccination centre

The AIS mass vaccination clinic will close after 31 May. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Canberra Health Services has, in recent weeks, reduced the opening hours of many of its pandemic-related facilities.

They cited a reduction in demand for their services but also a need for the staff members working there to be redeployed to other areas across the healthcare system.

Most recently, it was announced the AIS Mass Vaccination Clinic would shut its doors after administering its final jabs on 31 May.

Some walk-in centres have also had to reduce their hours so staff could be redeployed elsewhere.

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ACT Health thanked the community for its understanding.

“We want to acknowledge all our health care workers who continue to care for our community in the face of these challenges,” the department said in a statement.

“Please remember that our team members are doing their best to keep us all safe, and being kind and respectful is the best way you can help them.”

The Territory’s public schools are also continuing to feel the pressure of the pandemic, with around 10 per cent impacted by COVID-19 on any given day.

Yesterday, it was announced that all students at Black Mountain School would need to move to remote learning for a period due to staff shortages.

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