New figures have revealed that 1051 elective surgeries were cancelled in August, the month before the State Government officially announced it was postponing some surgeries due to a lack of capacity in the system.
Under questioning from the Opposition in Budget Estimates, the Director-General of Health conceded the cancellations were to try and relieve pressure on WA hospitals.
“To already have more than 1000 surgeries cancelled before there was an official decision to postpone them is extraordinary and highlights the fragility of our health system which is buckling under the pressure due to chronic underfunding,” Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said.
“To add to this, hundreds more have been and will continue to be cancelled this month as the health system experiences regular Code Yellows due to a lack of beds and record levels of ambulance ramping outside WA hospitals.
“Yet the health budget has only increased by 1.38% this year and the operational health budget will be cut from next year. It makes no sense and highlights the priorities of this Labor Government are cost-cutting and budget surpluses at the expense of our critical health services.”
Almost 13% of category one surgeries, which are supposed to be seen within 30 days, were delayed while almost a quarter of category two surgeries were not seen within the 90-day target.
“The category one patients are obviously the most urgent and to have such a large percentage waiting more than a month is distressing, particularly when there’s the potential for their condition to deteriorate quickly and become an emergency,” Ms Mettam said.
“For the patients, some of which suffer heart and spine related ailments, to be waiting such a long-time is stressful and obviously many are in chronic pain.
“It’s concerning to see the health system struggling to cope without any COVID in the community or influx of flu and obviously also disappointing that the Labor Government has allowed the system to get to this point.
“We know that despite the spin from this Government, this issue has been building over the past four years.
“The elective surgery waitlist has blown out by almost 50 per cent under the WA Labor Government since 2017, with the number of cases consistently around 28-30,000 for more than a year.
“It’s unfathomable that in a State with a so-called world class health system and a record $5 billion surplus that we are in the position where West Australians are waiting for months on end to receive basic surgeries.
“We know that our healthcare workers are doing an amazing job while continually being asked to do more with less and it can’t continue. Both our healthcare workers and West Australians deserve to know how and when this Labor Government will fix it.”