Counties Manukau DHB could delay some non-urgent surgery

4:40 pm on 14 August 2020

Counties Manukau Health says it will continue to carry out acute surgery during the current lockdown, but some non-urgent elective procedures may be deferred.

Generic shot of operating table/surgery in hospital.

A Counties Manukau Health spokesperson said surgery levels had not yet been impacted by the latest lockdown. Photo: 123RF

A spokesperson said they were continuing to monitor the situation as the number of Covid-19 cases in the Auckland region grew.

The spokesperson said Counties Manukau Health surgery levels had not yet been impacted by the latest lockdown.

"Acute surgeries are continuing, as are electives, although some non-urgent elective surgeries may be deferred," the spokesperson said.

"We are continuously working on contingency plans to address any impacts should the current lockdown be extended."

In June, Counties Manukau Health said it had to defer between 1400 and 1600 elective surgery operations due to Covid-19 and was looking at reducing the backlog with the much needed funding boost it received in the Budget.

Non-acute elective services were severely affected by the coronavirus lockdown and it was expected to take some time for them to recover.

Counties Manukau DHB received an additional $94 million in funding in the Budget for 2020/2021, taking its overall funding for the year to $1.6 billion.

The government allocated a further $282.5m over three years to address planned care wait lists, including those impacted by Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health was developing a policy for accessing the additional funding and was expected to advise DHBs early in the 2020/21 financial year.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), the professional association and union which represents the country's doctors, said it would take years to cut the waiting lists.

But ASMS executive director Sarah Dalton said lessons had been learned after the last lockdown.

Hospitals around the country still carried out acute and urgent surgery, she said.

"I think if the Covid-19 cases are handled in quarantine and are more community based, hospitals may be in a better position to continue with surgery," Dalton said.

"There's always large backlogs and waiting lists, and sure Covid-19 has made it worse, but it's not like everyone previously got surgery in a timely fashion."

For individuals waiting for surgery and their families it could be upsetting and quite traumatic but most hospitals had been trying to reduce their waiting lists, she said.

"If you are waiting for care it might seem like a form of rationing and it is, but we do have limited resources."

But it was important medical staff were not put under increasing pressure to make up for the backlogs, she said.

"We still only have the same numbers of staff and operating theatres."

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