Hospitals accused of blocking critical surgeries to save money

Hospitals are accused of blocking critical surgeries to save money – and using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to ‘save millions of dollars’

  •  Hospitals in New South Wales have been accused of limiting elective surgeries
  •  Doctors said the COVID-19 pandemic has been used as an excuse to save money
  •  Hospitals should be operating at 75 per cent pre-pandemic capacity by June 30 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Surgeons have accused hospitals of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to block operations in order to save money.    

The director of the pelvic floor unit at Western Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, Dr Jenny King, claimed health district executives used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to halt elective operations and slash budgets. 

She wrote in her memorandum: ‘Limiting elective surgery undoubtedly saves money but none of these measures serves our community. It is not acceptable to continue to hide behind COVID-19,’ The Australian reported.  

New South Wales doctors claim hospitals are blocking surgeries to save money. Dr Jenny King said parts of Westmead Hospital (pictured) are operating at less than 50 per cent capacity

New South Wales doctors claim hospitals are blocking surgeries to save money. Dr Jenny King said parts of Westmead Hospital (pictured) are operating at less than 50 per cent capacity 

Doctors claim the coronavirus pandemic is being used as an excuse to operate hospitals well below capacity. Pictured: A nurse performing a coronavirus examination in Brisbane

Doctors claim the coronavirus pandemic is being used as an excuse to operate hospitals well below capacity. Pictured: A nurse performing a coronavirus examination in Brisbane 

New South Wales has already begun to ease restrictions on elective surgeries and hospitals should be resuming 75 per cent of pre-pandemic activity levels by June 30. 

Dr King said: ‘In Women’s Health we are operating at under 50 per cent of our previous level and I understand some specialties are only able to perform 25 per cent of necessary procedures.’  

Another surgeon estimated that certain hospitals were underutilising operating theatres and even performing below pre-pandemic activity levels. 

Dr Michael Levitt, an adviser on the NSW state committee of the Australian ­Society of Anaesthetists, told Daily Mail Australia: ‘There’s absolutely no justification of it but they’re saving millions of dollars by not operating.

‘In Westmead Hospital they’re running about 30 to 40 per cent in some specialties and almost zero in orthopaedics.’ 

‘The surgeons are all being strictly pressured not to breach the numbers criteria for elective surgery,’ Dr Levitt explained. 

He described the coronavirus pandemic as the ‘perfect political cover’.   

‘They’re saying we have to preserve personal protective equipment and prepare for a second wave.  

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 7,240

New South Wales: 3,106

Victoria: 1,678

Queensland: 1,060

Western Australia: 592

South Australia: 440

Tasmania: 228

Australian Capital Territory: 107

Northern Territory: 29

TOTAL CASES: 7,240

RECOVERED: 6,649

DEATHS: 102

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‘The second wave is never going to happen and they know it’s not going to happen. The only motivation here is the millions of dollars a week. 

‘It’s a massive amount of saving for the government and the only motive is money saving,’ he said.   

Private Healthcare Australia estimated the waiting lists for elective surgeries at public hospitals would not return to pre-pandemic levels until June 2022. 

Private hospital patients should also expect to experience delays in accessing surgery until March next year.

Private Healthcare Australia Chief Executive Dr Rachel David said patients would be prioritised based on clinical need. 

She said in a statement: ‘Elective surgery is currently being scheduled on the basis of clinical need and people who need elective surgery should speak with their treating medical specialist.’

Dr David said the conditions requiring urgent surgery included people in severe pain, people at risk of permanently losing a bodily function or people faced with significant deterioration if surgery is further delayed.       

The Western Sydney Local Health District chief executive, Graeme Loy, told Daily Mail Australia: ‘Western Sydney Local Health District is now providing more than 70 per cent of the previous surgical sessions.’

He said they were ‘well-progressed towards the resumption of 75 per cent of elective surgery activity by 30.’ 

‘The resumption of surgery adheres to the safety principles set by the National Cabinet, with a priority on PPE management, ICU capacity, prioritising our waitlisted patients and is not driven by financial performance,’ Mr Loy said.  

A spokesperson from NSW Health told Daily Mail Australia: ‘All NSW Health Local Health Districts are now working toward increasing elective surgery to 75 per cent by 30 June.   

‘The return of surgery is being balanced with our preparation for further COVID-19 cases to ensure we maintain hospital capacity to manage the pandemic.’ 

‘NSW Health acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected access to elective surgery and appreciates their patience as we navigate these unprecedented times,’ the spokesperson said. 

Hospitals in New South Wales should be resuming 75 per cent of pre-pandemic activity levels by June 30 (file image of a patient on crutches with a doctor)

Hospitals in New South Wales should be resuming 75 per cent of pre-pandemic activity levels by June 30 (file image of a patient on crutches with a doctor) 

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