Wagga Covid: MLHD clearing elective surgery backlog with Bureau of Health Information figures showing wait times have increased

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is working to clear its elective surgery backlog. Photo file.
The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is working to clear its elective surgery backlog. Photo file.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District will throw "all the resources" available in the region into clearing its elective surgery backlog.

MLHD acting medical services director Len Bruce said the region's hospitals had been facilitating up to 200 extra cases per month since elective surgery resumed in full on July 1.

This year's data for April to June, released by the Bureau of Health Information, shows 192 Murrumbidgee patients waited more than 12 months for elective surgery, compared with just 13 patients in the same period in 2019.

The median wait time for non-urgent elective surgeries increased by 55 days.

"We are working our way through the backlog and I'm confident that we will be able to get patients treated in a timely fashion," Dr Bruce said.

Dr Bruce said the health district's plan was to ramp up elective surgery even further in an attempt to bring wait times back to what they were before the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're doing approximately 100 extra cases per month at Wagga Base Hospital," he said.

Last week, 5448 patients in the Murrumbidgee were waiting for elective surgery including cataract extraction and knee replacements with 187 of those currently overdue.

Of those overdue patients, 120 are waiting for 'Category 3' procedures, whose surgery was delayed in March as part of a federal government ban on non-urgent procedures designed to free up public hospitals for any potential COVID-19 surge.

"We have had tremendous support from the federal government and the state government to provide extra resources to catch up on the backlog of elective surgery," Dr Bruce said.

"Because we know people have been waiting a long time and we obviously want to get them treated in as timely a fashion as possible."

Dr Bruce said he would like to see the patients overdue for elective surgery have their procedures done by the end of the year.

He said medical staff would need to operate at all the region's base and smaller district hospitals in order to clear the backlog.

"One of the caveats of that would be that patients may be asked to travel to be able to access surgery in a more timely fashion," he said.

"It's not possible for us to do all the surgical procedures at one or two facilities."

Dr Bruce said private providers, including Wagga's Calvary Hospital, continued to support the NSW Health services to provide elective surgeries.

Between April and June in 2019, less than four per cent of Murrumbidgee patients were overdue to have elective surgery, compared with 15 per cent in the same time period this year. This figure was about the state average.