10 December 2021

Elective surgery targets continue to be (just) missed: ACT Health report

| Lottie Twyford
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The Canberra Hospital

ACT Health’s annual report has shown it continues to fall short of meeting its elective surgery targets. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Despite recording some improvements on last year’s figures, the number of elective surgeries delivered in the ACT in the 2020-21 year still fell short of its target.

According to ACT Health’s annual report, which was tabled in the last sitting week of this year’s Assembly, a total of 15,324 elective surgeries were completed.

The target had been set at upwards of 16,000.

However, this was much higher than the 12,780 elective surgeries delivered in the 2019-20 financial year.

According to the report, the record number of elective surgeries delivered in the 2020-21 financial year was due to a commitment to recover from the 2020 impacts of COVID-19.

“The ACT delivered more elective surgeries for high demand cohorts, including for complex joint procedures and paediatric ear, nose and throat procedures,” the report read.

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This reporting period did not cover the effects of the ACT’s August delta outbreak and subsequent lockdown on elective surgeries.

While these surgeries were not stopped entirely during this lockdown, it’s understood some disruption was recorded.

However, the report attributed the ACT’s inability to deliver on its target to constraints such as an available clinical workforce due to border restrictions.

It also noted other jurisdictions were attempting to address their long waitlists caused by the nationwide suspension of non-essential surgery during the first round of lockdowns.

The report found that people were still waiting too long for their elective surgery. A target of 430 patients waiting longer than clinically recommended for elective surgery had been set, but in reality, 773 patients waited too long in the reporting period.

“This result, while worse than the target, represented the achievement of a significant reduction from the 1317 patients overdue at the end of the 2019-20 financial year,” the report read.

“This number was largely driven by the suspension of non-essential surgeries during the early COVID-19 response.”

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The report said more than 99 per cent of patients who had been overdue for surgery at the start of the financial year had received it by year’s end.

ACT Health said demand for elective surgery had reached record levels, with the waiting list at 5086 by the end of the year.

This, however, was lower than the previous year when 5622 patients were on the waiting list at year’s end.

The ACT Government committed to delivering 60,000 elective surgeries over the next four years, with almost $7 million in the recent Budget allocated to meet the goal.

It’s hoped this will support a reduction in the number of overdue patients.

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The ACT Budget also set aside $23 million in funding for Canberra hospital emergency departments over the next four years.

The annual report also showed concerning emergency wait times. A target of 90 per cent of emergency department presentations to be seen in four hours or less had been set, yet only 57 per cent of patients had been seen within this timeframe.

The recent Australian Medical Association (AMA) report, released in November, found, once again, that the ACT’s emergency wait times were the worst in the country.

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Finagen_Freeman7:43 pm 12 Dec 21

I still remember that Elective Surgery Blitz that was going to save the day.

What does the government do about the 500 patients who’s health deteriorated due to the length of time they’ve waited?

Ah yes, plant another tree.

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