In an important step forward, the National Cabinet has agreed to allow the resumption of Category two surgeries and selected Category three procedures, week commencing 27 April 2020.
The staged return includes cataract surgeries along with all IVF procedures, screening programs, post-cancer reconstructions, dental procedures and more.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to allow elective surgeries was possible following the slowing growth rate of COVID-19 to a minimal level and the securing of additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Sixty million face masks have arrived in Australia with another 100 million to come by the end of May.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), which has been working closely with the office of the Hon Minister for Health Greg Hunt, welcomed the announcement.
“We are eager to restart surgery, such as fixing cataracts, now that the Australian government has deemed it appropriate” said RANZCO President A/Prof Heather Mack.
“Cataract is the most performed surgery in Australia with a growing backlog. It is especially important that vulnerable Australians are able to have their vision restored. We know this sight-saving procedure improves mental and physical health, preventing falls and other injuries.”
RANZCO said it will update its COVID-19 guidelines once details of the resumption of surgery is provided by the government.
We are eager to restart surgery, such as fixing cataracts, now that the Australian government has deemed it appropriate
Patient Safety Central
Australian Private Hospitals Association’s (APHA) CEO Michael Roff said patient safety and well-being will be central to the staged return of elective surgeries.
“Private hospitals welcome the controlled return of elective surgery, which must be conducted so patients, health care workers and other hospital staff are as safe as possible. A phased reintroduction will allow hospitals to minimise risk to patients, monitor use of PPE and ensure we maintain capacity in the system to address the pandemic if it is required.
“We must acknowledge the great work already done in the health care system and by Australians in flattening the curve and putting governments in a position to allow the reintroduction of some elective procedures.
“We agree with the National Cabinet’s approach and look forward to resuming surgeries that will have a dramatic effect on the quality of life for many Australians,” Mr Roff said.
Mr Roff stressed the importance of access to PPE to ensure safety of patients and health care workers and that the use of PPE is appropriate to the procedure, in accordance with nationally developed guidelines.
“Access to PPE is going to be a critical issue for return to elective surgery and if normal supply chains are not restored soon, private hospitals will need to be given access either to government supply chains or to the national stockpile to ensure they can provide care safely.
“For a nationally consistent approach surgical restrictions need to be eased across the private and public hospitals at the same rate. This is to ensure equity of access to available services for patients on public elective waiting lists, in addition to privately insured patients.
“We must work together, going forward, to ensure Australians are able to get the care they need and our health workforce has the PPE needed to provide that care in a safe environment,” he said.