Elective surgery resumption after coronavirus delay fails to end uncertainty for some patients


Posted

April 22, 2020 08:01:35

David Hiscock is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Australians whose lives were turned upside down by last month’s suspension of non-urgent elective surgery across the country.

Key points:

  • Elective surgery is resuming, but it will be gradual and prioritised
  • It is not known at this stage how long a backlog will take to clear
  • Hundreds of thousands of Australians have had procedures put on hold

The decision to cancel all but the most pressing of surgeries in a bid to free up beds for an expected influx of COVID-19 patients happened just four days before the Perth businessman was due to have a prostate cancer operation.

Mr Hiscock said while yesterday’s National Cabinet announcement that elective surgery procedures would begin resuming from next week was welcome, the uncertainty was not over as he waited anxiously for a new date.

“I feel somewhat relieved, but there’s still no guarantee,” he said.

The 55-year-old said he had made every effort to stay positive but felt the decision to cancel elective surgery was “disproportionate”.

“First of all, I was angry,” he said.

“[I] didn’t really know where my life was going at that point in time.”

Selected patients to be contacted this week

WA Department of Health director-general David Russell-Weisz said hospitals and clinicians would prioritise the most urgent cancelled surgeries.

He said selected patients would be contacted this week for surgeries to commence on Tuesday next week.

But the resumption of elective surgery will be gradual and it is expected to take some time to clear the backlog of patients.

WA farmer Lucy has also been on an emotional rollercoaster ride since the suspension of elective surgery.

When she first learned her IVF procedure had been cancelled, she understood the reasons for the decision, but as the number of new cases dropped, her patience began to wear thin.

“I then got really angry and really upset again because I was like ‘goddammit this is my last chance and I’ve just turned 46 and I was so prepared and feeling really positive’, so it was a real let down,” she said.

Lucy said there had been lots of ups and downs on her journey to conceive, but the news that IVF was on the list of procedures to recommence soon had reignited hope.

‘Profound distress’ easing, fertility expert says

Reproductive medicine specialist Roger Hart said Lucy was far from alone in her experience, and the Government’s announcement had brought relief to many couples going through the IVF process.

“When that blanket ban came down, nobody knew when it was going to be released and so that caused profound distress to many patients,” said Professor Hart, from Fertility Specialists of WA.

He said the company’s clinics in Perth had been inundated with calls and queries over the last 24 hours, with patients desperate to know if their treatment could continue.

“It’s been a tsunami,” Professor Hart said.

He said coronavirus had heightened what could already be a stressful process for lots of couples, especially those who were repeatedly unsuccessful.

Professor Hart said the Federal Government eased restrictions much sooner than he anticipated, and stressed procedures would not begin immediately.

“A degree of patience is required because we’ve got to do this in a safe way for the patient themselves and also for our staff,” he said.

He said a framework ensuring the WA health system had the capacity and equipment to care for patients was still to be determined, but hoped procedures could restart next week.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook said people who had their surgery postponed would be contacted and advised on a new date “as soon as practical and possible”.

He urged the patients and their families not to contact their hospital in the meantime.

“Priority will be given on the basis of clinical need,” he said.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Topics:

covid-19,

infectious-diseases-other,

respiratory-diseases,

diseases-and-disorders,

healthcare-facilities,

surgery,

health,

perth-6000,

wa



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