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Healthy signs of waiting lists falling due to elective surgery

13 March, 2007

Almost 56,000 cases of elective surgery were performed in Perth hospitals last year bringing waiting lists to an all time low.

Recent analysis shows that 8,566 cases of elective surgery had to be rescheduled in public hospitals last year, however, almost half of these were for patient-related reasons.

Director General of Health Dr Neale Fong said the reasons included the patient forgetting; being unfit for surgery; rescheduling due to family illness, or the patient was admitted as an emergency for another procedure.

“It is inevitable that with such a high volume of elective surgery being carried out in our hospitals, rescheduling is sometimes necessary, but it is not a sign that our hospitals are inefficient,” he said.

“In fact, 1,077 patients whose elective surgery was rescheduled actually had their surgery moved to an earlier date.”

Dr Fong said that about half of the rescheduled procedures were due to hospital related reasons, which included emergency cases taking priority, theatre staff shortages and the unavailability of a surgeon or anaesthetist.

“We acknowledge the inconvenience caused to patients and their families when their surgery is rescheduled, and we will continue to make sure this is kept to a minimum,” he said.

“In fact there were 517 fewer cases of rescheduled surgeries in 2006 compared to 2005.”

Dr Fong said that a new policy introduced last year meant that no patient would have their elective surgery rescheduled more than twice.

“We give patients as much notice as possible, explaining the reason for the postponement, and surgery is rebooked on the next available list,” he said.

“But the current figures are not acceptable and we expect our hospital administrators to do better to ensure that patients are not inconvenienced.

“We have appointed a senior executive, Dr Robyn Lawrence, to drive the reforms we need and make sure numbers like these quickly become a thing of the past.”

At the end of 2006 there were 15,242 people on the elective surgery waiting list compared to 16,802 at the same time last year.

People are now waiting almost two weeks less than they were a year ago with an average wait of 107 days compared to120 days at the same time last year.