Thousands remain on elective surgery wait lists on South Coast

Back on track: Elective surgery has resumed at Shoalhaven Hospital after issues with a sterilisation machine brought procedures to a halt last month. Picture: Greg Totman

Back on track: Elective surgery has resumed at Shoalhaven Hospital after issues with a sterilisation machine brought procedures to a halt last month. Picture: Greg Totman

Almost 5500 South Coast patients were waiting for elective surgery at the region’s three major hospitals at the end of 2016, according to the latest hospital report card.

While 827 patients underwent elective surgery at Shoalhaven Hospital; more than double that (1669) were waiting at the end of the quarter.

More than 2000 patients were awaiting elective procedures at Wollongong Hospital by year’s end, with just over 1600 elective surgeries performed from October to December. Of those waiting, the majority were on the list for tonsillectomies, or hip and knee replacements.

The Bureau of Health Information Hospital Quarterly report also revealed that 685 elective procedures took place at Shellharbour Hospital in the quarter. That left 1698 patients on the wait list as at December 31 – most awaiting cataract surgery.

The figures did not take in recent issues with sterilising equipment at Shoalhaven hospital, with elective surgery brought to a halt after problems were identified on February 1.

However Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District executive director clinical operations Carolyn Cooper said sterilisation services had ‘’returned to normal’’ after a comprehensive review.

‘’Comprehensive testing has determined that the sterilisation process at Shoalhaven is within clinically appropriate standards,’’ she said.

Ms Cooper said the decision to postpone some elective surgery last month was not taken lightly.

‘’We acknowledge that some elective patients have not received their surgery within clinically recommended timeframes,’’ she said.

‘’Postponement of surgery is less than ideal for all involved, but patient safety is our highest priority and we again reassure the community that there has been no risk to surgical safety.’’

She added that the hospital would move ahead with ordering new sterilising machinery and would continue to use Wollongong Hospital’s sterilisation services as a back-up.

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