12/05/2020

South Australia will become the first state to begin to fully restore elective surgery from midnight tomorrow with the lifting of the Appropriate Surgery Direction under the Emergency Management Declaration.

It is projected that our public hospitals will be able to ramp back up to normal elective surgery levels by early to mid-next month, as long as it remains safe to do so, while restrictions placed on dentistry will also be lifted.

“South Australians’ outstanding progress in containing COVID-19 thus far and a substantial increase in the stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has enabled the ramping up of elective surgery,” said Premier Steven Marshall.

““The restoration of elective surgery will deliver a welcome return to normality for the thousands of medical professionals who deliver these critical services."Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said that the advice of clinicians, particularly those in the recently established expert surgical advisory group, will guide the safe return of elective surgery in South Australian hospitals.

“To reduce the spread of COVID-19 within Australia and throughout the state, a decision was made in March to limit elective surgeries, treatments and procedures to urgent and essential cases only,” said Minister Wade.

“Elective surgeries were put on hold in both the public and private sector to ensure the safety of patients and staff, as well as to protect levels of PPE and hospital capacity in case COVID-19 overran the health system.

“To enable the full return of elective surgery, 48,000 surgical N95 masks and one million Level 3 face masks have been secured ahead of the production of 45 million face masks through local company Detmold.

“Over the past fortnight both the public and private sector have increased their surgery and procedure work schedules.

“We are now ready to move to restart our full elective surgery lists to ensure we can reduce the number of people currently waiting."Department of Health and Wellbeing Executive Director of Health Services Programs and Funding, Helen Chalmers, said federal government advice recommended each state and territory develop their own plan on how best to resume elective surgery and South Australia has proceeded accordingly.

“At each step of the way, we have taken advice from our integrated Surgical COVID-19 network, which was convened during the pandemic which is unique in Australia and which has been invaluable in delivering health outcomes for South Australians," Ms Chalmers said.

“The strategy in the first phase is to prioritise those on the waiting lists who have been waiting longest in their urgency categories.”

A focus on overdue elective surgery will help SA Health to reduce the backlog.

The surgical advisory group supports this strategy and will monitor the progress made.

As the public hospitals restore elective surgery to full capacity and the impact of the focus on overdues is assessed, the surgical advisory group and SA Health will work with Local Health Networks to develop the medium-term strategies to safely maximise our elective surgery activity going forward, while remaining COVID-ready.