09 December 2020

Public hospitals throughout NSW performed more elective surgery than in any other quarter over the last five years during the July to September 2020 quarter, despite COVID-19 challenges.

NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said the latest Bureau of Health Information (BHI) Healthcare Quarterly report, shows the health system is recovering well from nationally imposed restrictions.

“When you look at the challenges facing overseas hospitals, the effort of NSW in quadrupling ICU capacity, managing presentations and pushing through surgery is remarkable,” Ms Pearce said.

“Almost 100 per cent of urgent surgery was performed on time (99.8%) and more elective surgical procedures were performed this quarter, than in any other quarter over the last five years.

“We needed to act decisively to address the impact of a pause in non-urgent surgeries on our waiting lists that was introduced Australia-wide in March, which we did and are continuing to do.”

Figures show public hospitals performed almost 65,000 elective surgeries in the July to September quarter, up by 2,581 or 4.2 per cent on the same quarter in 2019, when there was no COVID-19.

Ms Pearce maintains this performance is a terrific result by health staff and played a large role in reducing the public waiting list to 95,000 at the end of September from 101,000 at the end of June.

“It should be noted patients scheduled for non-urgent surgeries are able to be re-categorised by their own specialist to a more urgent category, if their clinical condition required their surgery to be conducted sooner than initially planned. ” she said.

The NSW Government has invested an additional $3 billion since March to help NSW Health manage the impacts of COVID-19, bringing the 2020-21 Health budget to a record $29.3 billion.

Other statistics of note in the latest BHI quarterly results was a drop in emergency department attendances, down 53,150, or 7 per cent year on year, to 711,422 attendances.

The most striking decreases in attendances were in the urgent triage 3 category, down by 32,115 or 11.9 per cent, and the semi-urgent triage 4 category, down 49,299 or 16.3 per cent.

As has been seen all year, non-urgent triage 5 presentations were up, with a 27,797 or 43.2 per cent increase on 2019 figures due to COVID-19 testing within EDs or co-located testing clinics.

“This spike in non-urgent presentations was mainly in metropolitan hospitals as people rushed to get COVID tests at the start of the pandemic, before dedicated clinics were set up,” Ms Pearce said.