The ACT Government has announced an $11 million blitz on elective surgery to tackle long waiting times.
The Government will spend a total of $11.8 million for an extra 1,000 elective surgeries planned for the first half of next year.
The push means Canberra patients who have been waiting longer than recommended for elective surgery could have their procedures fast tracked.
There are more than 1,200 people on the long waiting list for surgery.
A majority of the people waiting require orthopaedic, urology or ear, nose and throat procedures.
Health Minister Simon Corbell said theatres at both Canberra and Calvary Hospital would be better utilised during the period, while some surgeries would take place at private hospitals.
Some procedures could also occur after hours or on weekends to ease the load.
Mr Corbell said the increase in surgeries would be managed largely by existing staff.
“We’re working very closely with all of our surgeons,” he said.
“They’ve indicated in many instances they are ready, willing and able to do more elective surgery work.
“Where we do need some additional capability, for example in areas around anaesthetists or in relation to some other specialities, we will secure locum services to deliver that.”
The median waiting time for elective surgery is 42 days but Mr Corbell said there was “still far too many people on the long wait list”.
He said the list had reached its current level despite significant investment from the Government in the past.
In 2014-15, ACT public hospitals provided a record 11,875 elective surgery procedures.
“Despite increasing the number of elective surgeries performed each year the growth in the ACT’s population combined with the aging population has resulted in increased demand,” Mr Corbell said.
“Patients who have been on the long wait list will be contacted directly by the hospital to be advised of a surgery date.”
Mr Corbell said he was confident all waiting 1,200 people would have surgery within the next six months.
“Our goal is zero long waits. Once we achieve that we need to proactively manage the list to make sure we don’t end up with more long waits again,” he said.
Using private hospitals not a long-term fix: AMA
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) however is not convinced that ACT Government’s approach will be effective.
AMA ACT president Liz Gallagher told 666 ABC Canberra’s Adam Shirley the “blitz” approach to solving problems in the public health system had failed in the past.
It’s not great to send surgery outside the public system.Liz Gallagher, AMA ACT
“While its fine to throw lots and lots of money over a short period of time to get onto things, I think it really is important to change the culture of the hospital,” she said.
“To change the efficiencies and to look at any way we can to prevent it blowing out yet again.”
Dr Gallagher said overall Canberra offered a really good medical system, but there were inefficiencies, including in the way in which theatres are run.
She said for the Government’s plan to work, it needed to address this problem in the longer term.
“As long as we can fix those, as long as the Government is prepared to take the staff, from the ground up with them on all this, I think that’s the best way to start to try and improve things,” she said.
Dr Gallagher said using space in private hospitals to help cut public waiting lists was not a solution for the long term.
“It’s not great to send surgery outside the public system. What we need to do is try and keep it within it,” she said.
“Fix up exactly what Mr Corbell is talking about – the patient flows and efficiencies – and then hopefully that will help us keep on track.”