17 March 2021

NSW public hospitals performed a record number of elective surgeries in the final quarter of 2020 performing more than 62,000 procedures, according to the Bureau of Health Information.

This was the highest number of elective surgical procedures ever performed during an October to December 2020 quarter as NSW Health continues to tackle delays which were an unavoidable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the National Cabinet’s suspension of all non-urgent and most semi-urgent surgery in March 2020.

“Our surgical activity increased by almost eight per cent compared with the same period in 2019 and admitting this many patients for their elective surgery during the quarter was a remarkable effort at a busy time of year,” NSW Health Deputy Secretary Dr Nigel Lyons said.

“While we still have lots of work to do, we have continued to reduce the number of people on the wait list while maintaining our important COVID-19 measures and preparedness across our public hospitals. Critically, 99.8 per cent of those people requiring urgent elective surgery in NSW had it performed on time.”

While in previous quarters, the state’s emergency departments saw a drop in attendances due to the impact of the pandemic, they were once again very busy as 2020 came to a close, seeing more than 792,000 attendances during the October to December quarter.

This was the highest number of attendances ever recorded in NSW during a quarter, though once again non-urgent presentations (triage 5) were up notably due in part to COVID-19 testing within emergency departments or co-located testing clinics. Despite the record number of emergency department attendances, timeliness of care improved, with treatment starting on time for 74 per cent of patients.

NSW Ambulance was also very busy, with almost 320,000 responses, which is the highest number of responses for an October to December quarter.

“While the health system continues to deal with the challenges presented by COVID-19, this level of activity demonstrates the ongoing resilience and hard work of NSW Health staff in meeting the needs of our communities,” Dr Lyons said.

Since March 2020, the NSW Government has committed more than $3 billion to increase the capacity of the health system, including $458.5 million to fast-track elective surgeries. This boost in funding has helped bring the 2020-21 Health budget to a record $29.3 billion.