Hospitals ramming through surgery before cut-off
INCENSED health workers say some Queensland private hospitals have been ramming through elective surgeries before Wednesday's deadline, risking patient and staff safety and using up protective equipment deemed a precious resource during the coronavirus pandemic.
People have contacted The Courier-Mail concerned the Queensland Eye Hospital has been undertaking "huge" numbers of cataract, pterygium and other surgery considered non-urgent.
The Courier-Mail understands surgical lists were performed on Saturday, when the theatres are usually closed.
Sunnybank Private Hospital, operated by Healthscope, is also understood to be carrying out weight-loss surgeries before a temporary suspension comes into effect at midnight tomorrow.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week an indefinite postponement of non-urgent elective surgery in Australia to free up resources so hospitals could deal with the full impact of COVID-19.
But he did a backflip within hours, allowing private operators an extra week before the suspension of non-urgent surgery comes into effect.
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' president Tony Sparnon said he had heard reports across the country of elective surgeries being ramped up ahead of the deadline.
"Our college is not happy with it," he said. "We would have rather the ban had started last week. The private hospitals will argue they're not doing anything wrong but morally, they're using up equipment."
Dr Sparnon said the college was also concerned about the unnecessary infection risk to patients and hospital staff by continuing to perform non-urgent surgeries amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He stressed that emergency surgery remained unaffected.
"I don't want the public to think that if they got a really sore tummy and appendicitis that there's no point going to hospital," Dr Sparnon said.
A spokesman for Healthscope, which operates Sunnybank Private and other hospitals across Australia, said elective surgery was being safely performed at its facilities with supplies of medical and personal protective equipment being appropriately managed.
He said the cancellation of non-urgent surgery after tomorrow would free up equipment going forward.
Cura Day Hospitals Group, which includes the Queensland Eye Hospital, said all scheduled elective surgeries would continue until tomorrow's deadline.
"While some of these surgeries are classified as non-urgent elective surgery, many of these are still important procedures that provide relief to patients who may be experiencing discomfort or reduced function," a spokeswoman said.
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Dr Sparnon called on both state and federal governments to support private hospitals during the pandemic so they would not be forced to close their doors and stand down skilled staff.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has called for urgent elective surgeries to be transferred from public hospitals to the private sector, if possible.
"Supporting the private sector now will save jobs and ensure all possible health sector resources are online when the full impact of COVID-19 seriously hits Australia," Dr Sparnon said.
Originally published as Hospitals ramming through surgery before cut-off