News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

100,000 patients on NSW elective surgery waiting list is unacceptable

Health Industry Hub | March 22, 2023 |

MedTech News: With NSW heading to the polls this weekend for the State election, opposition leader Chris Minns has promised a task force to target elective surgery backlogs.

The Bureau of Health Information (BHI) quarterly report for October to December 2022 found there were 99,300 patients on the waiting list at the end of December. Of those patients, 17,074 had waited longer than clinically recommended.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) NSW President, Dr Michael Bonning, has been urging the parties to commit to reducing the unacceptable number of patients waiting for elective surgery.

He said “These are patients whose lives are on hold while they wait for surgery to fix conditions that are often painful and debilitating.

“When the BHI began reporting in 2010, there were 65,476 people on the elective surgery waiting list. The upwards trend that we’ve witnessed over the years will not be reversed without direct and meaningful action. Operating theatres are sitting empty because we don’t have the doctors and nurses needed to staff them.”

According to 2022 research commissioned by Johnson & Johnson MedTech, three in five (60%) Australians rated waiting times for elective surgeries as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, making it the lowest-performing aspect in the healthcare system. The majority (55%) of respondents opposed the NSW Government’s decision to suspend elective surgery during the Omicron outbreak, with only a quarter (24%) supporting it.

J&J MedTech ANZ Managing Director, Sue Martin, said at the time “This is a national problem. There needs to be cooperation between the State and Federal governments. The community is telling us that these power struggles is not creating solutions for elective surgery.

“We have an aging population and the increased burden of chronic disease is not going away. We need a longer-term solution for a sustainable healthcare system, both across the public and private healthcare sector.”

Dr Bonning pointed to the clear differences between hospitals on elective surgery wait times.

“Patients at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital should be concerned that the median waiting time for elective surgery is 345 days compared to the average which is 316 days. If the next government adequately resources public hospitals, the current crisis in elective surgery is fixable.

“Our doctors are telling us that in many places work is being done in the public hospital system, they’ve got capacity to do more, it just needs to be adequately resourced. Pushing public patients through private hospitals compromises training for the next generation of doctors. We need solutions that are sustainable and focused on supporting the long-term goal of building and retaining the nation’s top doctors,” he said.

Labor’s elective surgery task force would be made up of those with knowledge of the industry, including current and former health public servants. It would make recommendations to the government on ways to reduce the waiting list, including through efficiency programs and better collaboration with the private sector. One of the main aims of the task force will be ensuring patients are seen within the clinically recommended time.

Mr Minns said “Dominic Perrottet and the Liberals don’t get it. In response to the outpouring of concern about the state of our public hospitals from paramedics, to nurses to senior doctors in the bush and in the city – the Minister for Health declared – that if the conditions were so bad – perhaps the doctors should go and work in the third world.”

He added on Monday “The task force will be charged with ensuring we make a real dent in the list, clearing the backlog and ensuring people are not left on the list longer than clinically recommended.”

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