Tasmania’s spiraling elective surgery must be more than a campaign headline

5 Apr 2021



AMA Tasmania calls for a guarantee from all political parties that any promised increased funding into elective surgery will increase elective surgery capacity and be built into the long-term health budget. 

The Liberals commitment to the co-located hospital at the Launceston General Hospital and more money for hospital equipment is welcomed by AMA Tasmania. 

While increased funding to employ additional staff is also welcomed, this needs to be more than election promises. 

“Rather than just a list of short-term promises, what we need is for the next government to deliver to Tasmanians a long game plan, as time and time again, we are seeing the system and the healthcare workers in the system at breaking point and patients not being treated within the recommended time frames whether that be in emergency departments or on the elective surgery waiting list. 

“We need long term investment in elective surgery capacity to enable doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers to be employed on a permanent basis.” 

Tasmania’s elective surgery waiting list is some of the worst in the country. 

“With an ageing population, we will continue to see waiting lists for outpatients (the step before being put on the waiting list) and elective surgery worsen. 

“We have an ever-increasing number of emergency patients needing theatre time which has meant elective cases having to be cancelled. 

“There is nothing more distressing for a patient to turn up to have their operation cancelled from the operating theatre waiting bay because there is no theatre time available or bed for them to go to post-surgery. Likewise, there is nothing more frustrating or disappointing for the doctors and nurses to have to cancel surgery.” 

COVID has impacted, but it is not the sole issue. 

“We have more surgeons available than there are operating sessions, and operations are cancelled because there are inadequate beds on the wards and in the ICU. We need more theatre nurses, ward nurses and anaesthetists. 

“Nursing and midwifery staff are working unsustainable amounts of overtime.  This must be fixed. 

“Pre-COVID, we were completing about 15,000 elective surgery cases while we added 19,000 at the same time. Elective surgery was already underfunded before COVID; funding must meet increases in demand as well as the increased costs of running the health system. 

“What we need is a commitment to increase public hospital capacity across outpatients, inpatients, emergency, and elective surgery.  

“We need more open and transparent real-time data on elective surgery and the reasons for its cancellations so that promises can be made in election campaigns that will make a real difference and not just a headline from either political party. 

“We believe much more can be done to improve how the Tasmanian Health Service captures funding from the work that is done. 

“The future looks grim if governments do not start to tackle the issues in more than a band-aid manner.” >>>ENDS  

Published: 5 Apr 2021