Covid stalls elective surgery

Waiting times at Dandenong Hospital''s emergency department failed to meet benchmarks. 165451_02 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Monash Health’s elective surgery waiting list has ballooned by 21 per cent due to deferrals during the Covid-19 pandemic’s peaks.

According to its 2019-’20 annual report, Monash Health’s waiting list swelled from 7545 to 9150 by the end of June.

This is even before Victoria plunged into its Covid ‘second wave’.

Between January and June, Monash Health completed more than 174,000 screening tests and cared for 25 Covid-19-positive inpatients, including Australia’s first.

Meanwhile 21 per cent of “long waiting” elective surgery patients lingered on the list – more than four times the Monash Health benchmark.

During 2019-’20, the health service which includes Monash Medical Centre, Dandenong Hospital and Casey Hospital admitted 25,379 elective surgery patients.

This was 13 per cent below its annual target of 29,275.

Elective surgeries were limited during Covid-19’s peak periods in line with National Cabinet’s decision, a Monash Health spokesperson said.

“As Victoria continues on the roadmap for reopening, Monash Health is increasing elective surgery activity.

“Importantly, at all times throughout the pandemic, Monash Health has continued to provide prompt elective surgery to patients who urgently need it.”

Clayton, Dandenong and Casey emergency departments recorded a third less presentations during the Covid ‘first wave’.

Despite this, the EDs performed well below benchmarks for ambulance transfer times, wait times and length of stays in 2019-’20, according to the annual report.

At Casey, 48 per cent of triage category 1-5 patients were seen within clinically recommended times – well below the 80 per cent target.

At Dandenong, the percentage was 54.5 per cent.

“Monash Health encourages anyone in the community who needs medical attention to seek assistance as soon as it is required and not to put it off,” a spokesperson said in reference to the reduced ED presentations.

“This can be through a hospital emergency department or your local GP.”