Elective surgery is about to increase at Grafton Base Hospital as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.
Elective surgery is about to increase at Grafton Base Hospital as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.

Doctors begin to ramp up elective surgery to clear backlog

SURGEONS at Grafton Base Hospital will begin to eat into the backlog of elective surgeries that have built up at the hospital since these operations were cut back during the COVID-19 emergency.

The VMO anaesthetist at Grafton Base Hospital, Allan Tyson, said there were almost 600 cataract surgeries on the hospital books and more who would not have been booked in for surgery during the COVID-19 lockdown.

"It's time to get back on track with these surgeries," Dr Tyson said.

"Because Grafton does less acute cases, there's been backlog of procedures like colonoscopies, and endoscopies.

"We're going to start doing knee and hip surgeries back at something close to the normal rate."

He said the effect could be a blow out in waiting times, but nothing that was unmanageable.

"The standard wait time for a cataract procedure is 12 months, and this might go a little bit over," he said.

"Covid has delayed people getting operations done, and delayed consultations of people who might have booked in surgeries.

"Normally a surgeon might do 18 cataracts surgeries a day on two lists a week and we have four surgeons, so the numbers are manageable."

Northern NSW Local Health District executive officer Wayne Jones said doctors would work towards increasing elective surgery activity to 75 per cent of the pre-lockdown level by the end of June.

"This will involve consultation with our surgical and anaesthetic directors, as well as hospital management, nursing and other staff involved in operating theatre and recovery units," he said.

"The gradual resumption of elective surgery will be coupled with ongoing review and assessment of supplies and usage of PPE that keep both staff and patients safe, as well as continuing to significantly expand the state's ICU capacity."

He said the NSW Government has already committed $800 million extra funding for NSW Health to help boost ICU capacity and purchase additional services and medical equipment, to help respond to COVID-19.

"In addition to this, the NSW Government is also injecting $25 million to fast-track statewide research and clinical trials to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic and reduce its impact on the community," Mr Jones said.