30 August 2021

Elective surgery rescheduled to reduce demand

Western Australian public hospitals will scale back some elective surgery from

1 September to help alleviate current system pressures.

All metropolitan public hospitals, including public-private partnership hospitals, as well as Bunbury and Geraldton hospitals, will cease further bookings for multi-day non-urgent Category 2 and Category 3 elective surgeries for a period of one month.

All Category 1 and urgent Category 2 bookings and surgery will continue as normal.

Same-day and procedure room surgery will continue but may be rescheduled based on hospital demand, while Category 2 multi-day cases already booked would be reviewed by the hospital and proceed if urgent.

Patients impacted by this decision will be contacted directly by their hospital and are asked not to call the hospital or doctor, but to wait to be advised by the treating hospital.

Health Director General Dr David Russell-Weisz said the decision to scale back elective surgery in this manner was taken jointly between the Department of Health and Health Service Providers.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and we regret that this will cause disruption for patients affected by the change,” Dr Russell-Weisz said.

“However, taking this action now will allow for redeployment of staff to key areas, deliver additional bed capacity and help reduce hospital demand, to ensure we continue to provide safe, timely and high-quality care.”

Dr David Russell-Weisz said that, like other Australian jurisdictions, the Western Australian public health system was experiencing an unprecedented level of demand on the system; together with workforce shortages exacerbated by high levels of staff illness.

“Compounding this is the significant and increasing number of long stay patients in WA hospitals awaiting discharge to supported community accommodation and disability services, especially in mental health,” Dr Russell-Weisz said.

“These factors are all contributing to the decline in transfer of care and resulting in significant growth in ambulance ramping hours and increased workloads for our staff.”

Dr Russell-Weisz said the rescheduling of non-urgent elective surgeries was one of several initiatives underway to help address system pressure.

“We have established an Emergency Access Response program to increase bed capacity, attempt to move many long stay patients to other clinically appropriate facilities, improve patient flow, recruit more staff and focus on mental health and wellbeing,” Dr Russell-Weisz said.

“There is no higher priority now, and the whole health leadership team, in conjunction with staff, will do everything possible to enact these strategies.

“These are uncertain times and the entire WA health system remains committed, flexible and dedicated to providing all Western Australians with high-quality health care.

“Thank you to all our magnificent staff across the system for your hard work and commitment to patient safety and care.”

Media contact: 9222 4333