Halting non-urgent surgeries ‘not the solution’

As the pandemic worsens in NSW, the latest state government measure to deal with the influx of Covid-19 patients in public hospitals is to postpone non-urgent elective surgeries in private hospitals from Monday 23 August and deploy staff from these facilities to public hospitals in distress.

Staff from many private hospitals across greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong, as well as some regional locations, are being deployed to assist the NSW government’s response to the current Covid outbreak.

This decision comes on the back of confronting images and news footage earlier this week of Covid patients waiting hours in ambulance bays at Westmead Hospital in Sydney’s south-west, the epicentre of the outbreak.

The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) said the state’s already overloaded healthcare system is failing to adapt to the crisis, with staff and patients paying the price.

Paramedics used the parking lot floor for paperwork and ate while sitting in the gutter at Westmead Hospital, as up to 13 ambulances waited hours to transfer care of mostly Covid-positive patients.

“These kinds of scenes don’t belong in a functioning first-world healthcare system,” APA (NSW) President Chris Kastelan said. “Waiting hours in a parking lot isn’t comfortable. It isn’t dignified. We don’t even know if it’s safe.

“Confirmed Covid patients who require medical attention are waiting outside hospitals for hours. Paramedics are doing paperwork on the concrete floor in full PPE.

“NSW Health has now had 18 months to improve logistics and increase capacity for Covid patients. Communities living through this latest outbreak have every reason to feel angry and let down about the standard of care on offer for their loved ones.”

NSW Health said on Wednesday (18 August) that “private hospital staff will help support the large-scale vaccination effort currently underway and support workforce demands in the NSW public health system”.

“Ensuring adequate system capacity as well as patient, staff and public safety will be key factors in the delivery of healthcare services during this time,” the department continued.

“Patients due to receive non-urgent elective surgery impacted by these changes are being contacted and encouraged to seek medical attention should they experience a change in their condition so they can be reviewed and re-prioritised to a more urgent category if required.”

However, on Tuesday, the day before the NSW Health announcement, Australian Private Hospitals Association CEO Michael Roff said that already a significant number of patients were waiting for elective surgery, 18 months after the first Covid-19 outbreak enforced shut down of procedures, and that it would be some time before this backlog could be addressed.

“We estimated there were 340,000 episodes of care ‘missing’ from private hospitals in 2020,” he said. “Taking into account the six months to the end of June, we now estimate that figure has fallen to 290,000, but it will still take a considerable amount of time to work through these cases.

“This is a serious situation for those affected patients and the healthcare system. These are surgeries and other treatments that have been deferred, but they will need to be done at some stage and include procedures like total knee and hip replacements or cataract surgery that impact a patient’s ability to move around or to see.”

The private hospitals affected are:

  • Macquarie University Hospital
  • Castlecrag Private Hospital
  • Hunters Hill Private Hospital
  • Kareena Private Hospital
  • North Shore Private Hospital
  • St George Private Hospital
  • Strathfield Private Hospital
  • Warners Bay Private Hospital
  • Westmead Private
  • Wollongong Private Hospital
  • Brisbane Waters Private Hospital
  • Dubbo Private Hospital
  • Gosford Private Hospital
  • Hurstville Private Hospital
  • Lingard Private Hospital
  • Maitland Private Hospital
  • Shellharbour Private Hospital
  • Tuggerah Lakes Private Hospital
  • Sydney Adventist Hospital
  • Campbelltown Private Hospital
  • Hunter Valley Private Hospital
  • Newcastle Private Hospital
  • Norwest Private Hospital
  • Prince of Wales Private Hospital
  • Sydney Southwest Private Hospital
  • Nepean Private Hospital
  • Northern Beaches Hospital
  • Mater Hospital Sydney
  • St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Darlinghurst



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