Elective surgery plan strikes the right balance

April 4, 2022

The Victorian Healthcare Association applauds the Victorian Government’s $1.5 billion COVID-19 “Catch-Up Plan”.

CEO of the VHA, Tom Symondson, said the Victorian Government had developed a realistic, long-term plan for tackling the enormous elective surgery waiting list that takes into account concerns and ideas raised by the VHA on behalf of public hospitals in recent months.

“In an election year, it would have been tempting to impose a one-off ‘elective surgery blitz’ that risked pushing our exhausted healthcare workers too hard with too many requests for overtime and longer shifts,” he said.

“This plan appears to avoid that with its multi-year strategy and more use of private hospitals. The creation of surgical hubs, a recommendation of the VHA, will allow hospitals to deliver more surgery more efficiently and with less chance of cancellation due to emergency surgical cases.”

Mr Symondson said it also recognises the uneven demand for elective surgery across the state where different hospitals have treated vastly different numbers of COVID-19 patients. This has created variation in waiting lists among hospitals, meaning one person can be waiting much longer for surgery than another if they live in a particular public hospital catchment.

As the plan unfolds, Mr Symondson said public hospitals must retain the final say on how much elective surgery they can safely perform.

“Public hospitals continue to battle a severe shortage of healthcare workers, furloughing and high rates of burnout among staff who are facing unpredictable emergency demand as we head into our first winter with both flu and COVID-19 circulating in the community,” he said.

“So, asking public hospitals to perform too much elective surgery in a short period of time can risk their capacity to treat high numbers of patients needing emergency care and intensive care. That is why we support the Victorian Government’s multi-year approach and more use of private hospital capacity.”


More information and interviews available

Mr Symondson is available for comment. Media can contact:

Julia Medew on 0402 011 438 or Julia.Medew@vha.org.au