The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) has joined other specialist medical colleges across Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia in welcoming the temporary postponement of all non-urgent elective surgery in areas of high prevalence of COVID-19 infection across the two countries.
The seven specialties represented by the colleges cover surgeons, anaesthetists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, ophthalmologists, emergency physicians, intensive care doctors and medical administrators.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators (RACMA), the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) and the College of Intensive Care Medicine Of Australia and New Zealand (CICM) issued a joint communique outlining their reasons for endorsing postponement of non-urgent elective surgery.
The colleges will continue to discuss recommencement of normal surgical lists, while continuing to provide urgent care, as well as management of wait-lists, and sustainable mechanisms to address backlogs
“In some areas in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, the hospital systems face an unprecedented threat with the surge in COVID-19 infections. Increased acute hospital admissions place pressure on intensive care beds, hospital workforce, and other resources, and create hospital access blocks, as beds fill. Rural and regional centres that experience difficulty getting locums, and fly-in fly-out staff, because of border closures, may also need to restrict elective surgery.
“We welcome a consistent approach in both Australia, and Aotearoa New Zealand, which prioritises the health, safety and wellbeing of all patients, medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health staff. In areas of high prevalence of COVID-19 infection, all non-urgent elective surgery in public hospitals should be postponed. Private hospitals should be mobilised to accept urgent surgery and deploy staff to areas of community need. Regions not in lockdown may need to send staff to affected regions to help.
“All surgical groups will consult and identify critical procedures that are not able to be postponed. Each college will continue to engage with local hospitals, the Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand governments, health departments and ministry, and health administrators, to support a coordinated response to this public health crisis.
“We reiterate our commitment to collaborate to provide the best possible care for our community.”
RANZCO Guidelines for Triage
Professor Nitin Verma, President of RANZCO told mivision, “Patient safety is paramount. Ophthalmologists are concerned that within the parameters of safe care, patients get necessary care. RANZCO has developed triage guidelines to assist our Fellows in prioritising urgent cases and ensuring patients who are at risk of going blind, receive the care they need.
“Patients who are experiencing a loss of vision or difficulties with their vision should contact their ophthalmologist or optometrist. Where safe to do so, patients receiving intravitreal injections should maintain their appointment schedule,” Professor Verma stressed.
Recommencement to be Discussed
The Colleges’ communique acknowledged that postponement of surgical cases will need to be addressed in the future. “The colleges will continue to discuss recommencement of normal surgical lists, while continuing to provide urgent care, as well as management of wait-lists, and sustainable mechanisms to address backlogs”.