The Opposition has welcomed today’s announcement that short-stay elective surgeries in private hospitals will now be allowed to recommence but says it does not go far enough.

Shadow Minister for Health Libby Mettam called for the review last week and said while it was an important measure, it could be extended further given the relatively low number of COVID cases in hospital and ICU.

“While it’s good to see some common sense applied to addressing day surgeries, it is equally important that we try to address the multi-day surgery lists while there is still capacity in the system,” Ms Mettam said

“We know that the elective surgery waitlist has blown out by 50% since the McGowan Government was elected in 2017 so it does not make sense to have theatres sitting idle or not operating at capacity ‘just in case’.

“We also know that COVID will affect our hospital system for a long time to come so any changes to elective surgery should be based on what is actually happening in the hospitals.

“Once we reach peak cases and the flu season hits, then there will obviously be a need to look at these measures. But until then, it makes sense to utilise all capacity.”

Ms Mettam also re-iterated that just because surgery was elective did not mean it was not essential.

“Many of the procedures that have been cancelled include knee and hip replacements and other orthopaedic surgeries which are delaying essential treatment for patients, many of whom are in pain, and cannot work or
enjoy a normal life,” she said.

“The longer surgeries are delayed, there is a risk the conditions will increase in acuity putting extra pressure on the system.”

Ms Mettam said there were 28,571 patients on the elective surgery waitlist at the end of February, up from 19,931 patients when Labor was elected in 2017.

“I question how much of this precautionary planning is based on COVID modelling and how much is because our government simply doesn’t know how the hospitals will cope once we reach the peak,” she said.

“We have already had multiple cancellations in the last couple of years due to a lack of staff and there is concern that the system will be forced to play a dangerous game of catch-up with elective surgeries for many months or years to come.

“Cancelling elective surgery should always be a last resort, not a pre-emptive measure to reduce pressure on the system.”