Top doctor demands Dan Andrews IMMEDIATELY removes ban on elective surgeries as tens of thousands of Aussies continue to suffer in pain
- Dan Andrews has suspended elective surgeries in Victoria for a fortnight
- The blanket ban is to alleviate pressure on the state’s hospital system
- Top doctor has criticised the ban saying the surgeries are elective but essential
Thousands of patients are missing out on urgent operations because of Dan Andrews’ blanket ban on elective surgery, leading doctors say.
Elective surgeries were suspended in Victoria in early January for three months to alleviate pressure on the healthcare system amid a surge in Omicron cases.
But Australian Orthopaedic Association chairman Adrian Trivett says the procedures need to be reinstated immediately with some areas of hospitals that deal in day surgeries ‘sitting empty’.
‘We think the word ‘elective surgery’ is not a good description of these operations,’ These are essential procedures. They are non-urgent but essential procedures to help patients who are disabled and in pain return to their normal life.
‘We’re worried that there is capacity in the system and it’s not being utilised at the moment.’
‘Thousands of patients are missing out on the procedures that they really need to be able to restore their function and help them with pain and suffering that has been mounting over the last two years,’ he said.
He said there’s almost 10,000 patients that missed out on crucial hip and knee replacement surgery last year because of the harsh lockdowns in elective surgery.
‘We think that with many parts of hospitals with lights off, operating rooms shut and nurses not being utilised efficiently, he explained.
‘We can really have more sophistication in flexing up the service and making sure that these patients aren’t missing out. A blanket ban on elective surgery just doesn’t cut it.’
On January 5 the Andrews government announced elective surgeries would be suspended amid the Omicron wave to help hospital better cope with increased demand.
The changes were effective from January 6 across major cities in Victoria including Melbourne for a three month period – or until the Code Brown declaration for Victorian hospitals is lifted by the health department.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews (pictured) and health minister James Merlino announced a ban on elective surgeries in the state as hospitals cope with a surge of Omicron cases
The Victorian government has already backflipped on the ban for IVF treatments.
Acting Health Minister James Merlino announced some services will restart from last Thursday, while hospitals are scaling up their operations to enable procedures to resume from 11.59pm on Tuesday.
IVF clinics were contacted by authorities earlier this month to cancel appointments as part of a pause on elective surgeries in response to the rising number of Covid-19 hospitalisations.
The move attracted criticism from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, state Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, IVF clinics, patients and the community, with an online petition garnering almost 140,000 signatures.
Royal Australiasian College of Surgeons president Dr Sally Langley said the ‘recurring’ ban on elective surgery had a huge effect on Victorians.
There have been intermittent bans on these surgeries throughout Covid restrictions – as Victoria battled their first and second waves, along with the Delta and most recently Omicron waves.
Ms Langly said with each ban the waiting lists for elective surgeries grows – with some patients having to wait more than six months to have important operations.
‘Surgeons and their teams should be working to keep up their skills. The longer they’re away from work, there’ll be some anxiety about maintenance of skills,’ she said.
‘Hospital and ICU beds are in short supply … so I can understand restricting surgery if those resources are required, but there’s a whole sector of day surgery procedures, where most of the patients never even see the inside of a ward or a hospital bed. Why can’t those operations carry on?’ Dr Langley said.
The state’s health minister James Merlino said he was ‘sorry’ for the distress caused by the ban to affected services in recent weeks and was ‘working to have other services restored as soon as we can’.