Press Release 29/9/2021
Patients severely impacted by delays in treatment at public hospitals
As the public health sector tries to cope with the rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations, more and more patients waiting for elective surgery are being put at risk. Waiting times and delays for elective surgeries are at a record high since the pandemic started with the average delay being over 200 days.
The majority of those waiting are in Category 2 patients which means patients’ lives may be at risk if they do not receive treatment within 90 days. Patients in Category 3 are those that are non-urgent.
The challenge for these patients is that the longer their treatment is delayed the risk increases in that their underlying medical condition will deteriorate.
CEO of hearts4heart, Tanya Hall, said; ““It is incredibly concerning that cardiac patient’s procedures are being delayed. The term ‘elective surgery’ can be misleading. For many patients the wait could mean a death sentence, or may significantly reduce the clinical outcomes when they do receive the treatment because of the delay.” The reasoning for this delay is that more and more Covid cases are being hospitalised and hospital staff are quarantining, locking out the 66,000 patients on the elective surgery waiting list.
Staff, such as cardiac nurses, are also being reassigned away from their areas of specialisation to assist with the pandemic. This could be attending to patients in the ICU or helping to administer the vaccine at the numerous vaccination pop-centres across Victoria and New South Wales.
Stephen Mason said; “The APA is concerned that the safety and quality of care in public hospitals in NSW and Victoria is deteriorating because of the increased demand on hospitals, and this is putting patient safety at risk.”
Another risk with this, besides removing nurses and doctors from their fields, is that they may need to be trained quickly in handling ventilators and other equipment in ICU, that takes time and experience to skilfully operate the machinery. The risk is not only that it takes time to train these staff, but that they are inexperienced with this equipment; have no experience or medical history with the ICU patients; and are being transferred into stressful and overwhelming environments. Stephen Mason said “We are worried about patients who need an ICU bed as a result of an emergency not being able to get one in the next two months.”
Some nurses and doctors are being forced to care for multiple patients and work lengthy shifts, highlighting how understaffed public hospitals are at the moment. The simplest solution to the strain on public hospitals is to get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible so as to free up these hospitals from COVID-19 patients.
The life-threatening treatments can also be resolved with the assistance of private hospitals that are not feeling the same brunt of Covid patients as public hospitals are. Spare beds should be made available for elective surgeries to alleviate the pressure, with a prioritisation of those Category 2 and 3 surgeries that will soon become urgent. As many government-run ads will tell you, we are all in this together, and that means everyone needs to do their part to not only prevent Covid-related deaths but other easily preventable deaths.
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