Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the cancellation of elective surgeries, effective from midnight last night, as part of the government’s escalating restrictions to ensure the safety of the Australian public.
Scott Morrison said, “By cancelling certain elective surgeries, the National Cabinet is acting to preserve resources including protective equipment to help prepare public and private health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak.”
A quiet amendment was then made after the 9pm National Cabinet meeting, stating an extension of the deadline to April 1.
While the general public haven’t seen much, if any media coverage of this change, the medical industry has stepped forward, condemning the action.
A letter from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, signed by President Tony Sparnon and CEO John Biviano, was sent to their colleagues stating, “We are appalled by the federal government’s decision made late last night to extend the deadline for the suspension of semi-urgent category 2 and 3 elective surgeries at private hospitals to 1 April 2020.”
They letter goes on on to say, “We are disappointed to hear that hospitals are being asked to continue non-critical surgery at a time when we must be putting the safety of patients and staff first. This is a reversal of the federal government’s previously sensible decision to cancel all elective surgery except for urgent cases.
“This sort of decision making can only be described as putting commercial interests before patient safety. Many of our surgeons who work in private hospitals are appalled and refusing to operate on non-critical cases. We want to see leadership from the federal government that puts people’s safety first.”
Following this, a joint position statement from the chairs of the private anaesthetic groups in Adelaide has been released in response to the extension.
The chairs condemned the extension by the government, and are seeking urgent clarification from the SA Department of Health to provide clear direction on the types of surgeries that should proceed during the current crisis.
The open letter reads:
Elective surgery in Adelaide during the COVID-19 pandemic
This letter reflects the united view of the chairs representing almost 200 anaesthetists from the six major anaesthetic groups in Adelaide who, collectively, work across all private and public hospitals in South Australia.
We are all aware of the catastrophic COVID-19 public health disaster now wreaking havoc in Italy and Spain, and rapidly spreading across the rest of Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The most critical actions we can take to minimise deaths during this global pandemic are those that will slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and maximise our healthcare resources. These resources include the availability of ICU beds and ventilators, an adequate supply of personal protection equipment (PPE), and a healthy cohort of trained doctors and nurses.
It is for these reasons that we strongly recommend the immediate cancellation of all non-urgent elective surgery in all South Australian public and private hospitals.
The categories currently used to determine urgency of surgical procedures simply do not reflect appropriate clinical practice during a pandemic. We strongly urge the SA Department of Health to provide clear direction on the types of surgeries that should proceed during the current crisis.
The cancellation of these procedures will help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by reducing the number of asymptomatic but infected patients entering our public and private hospitals.
Critically, the cancellation of these procedures will help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to healthcare workers who will play an essential role in the weeks ahead. It will also reduce the incidence of healthcare workers coming into close contact with infected patients, resulting in those staff being forced into self-isolation for two weeks, and excluding them from the healthcare workforce.
Cancelling non-urgent elective surgery will also assist the effort to conserve the critical supply of PPE in our healthcare system.
We have not taken this policy recommendation lightly. Undertaking these changes will, of course, have an impact on patients already booked for elective surgery, and will have financial implications for healthcare workers, hospitals and the wider health care industry. However, the opportunity to alter the course of this imminent healthcare disaster is closing fast. The time to act is now.
Dr Ivan Ward
Chairman, Pulse Anaesthetics
Dr Peter Devonish
Chairman, Adelaide Anaesthetic Services
Dr Andrew Lavender
Chairman, Advanced Anaesthetic Adelaide
Dr Mark Sinclair
Chairman, Wakefield Anaesthetic Group
Dr Mike Whitehead
Chairman, Stace Anaesthetists
Dr William Richards
Chairman, Specialist Anaesthetic Services
More info to come.
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