State announces $250M for elective surgery catch-up

By Genevieve Waldie

Queensland Government has announced $250 million in extra elective surgeries following a three-month hiatus after all non-urgent procedures were suspended in March due to COVID-19.   

“We supported the Prime Minister’s move to suspend non-urgent procedures nation-wide as we prepared for an onslaught of tens of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths – but thanks to the efforts of our community, that did not become a reality for Queensland or Australia,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

The Deputy Premier, and Minister for Health, Steven Miles said that as part of the $250 million funding commitment, hospitals will provide non-urgent procedures outside of regular hours to clear the backlog.

Mr Miles said before the pandemic, most Queenslanders were receiving their elective surgery within the recommended timeframe. However, current figures suggest more than 7,000 people may wait longer – than clinically recommended by 1 July 2020 – as a result of the three-month elective surgery suspension.

Queensland Health Services has already recommenced elective surgeries in recent weeks prior to the funding boost.

“Our hospitals are rapidly increasing services – with elective surgery activity at more than 90 per cent across the system, but this $250 million will mean our hospitals will be able to get back to pre-COVID levels of elective surgery much sooner than planned, and we will be able to work through the backlog at a much faster pace,” Queensland Health Director-General Dr John Wakefield said.

“This investment will require us to expand over and beyond our usual levels of activity, plus work in partnership with the private sector.”

“It may take up to 12 months to clear the backlog, but could be longer if we have further disruption to our system, such as the second wave of COVID-19 cases.”

Dr Wakefield said Queensland remained in a positive position, thanks to the community.

 “Our clinicians report that patients on the elective wait lists have been incredibly understanding about these challenges,” Dr Wakefield said.

 “We asked Queensland to work with us to flatten the curve, and Queenslanders delivered above and beyond our expectations.  Queenslanders delivered for us throughout this pandemic, and now it’s our turn to deliver for them.”