Elective surgery wait list highest on record as WA stuck in Wait Awhile mode

Jun 22, 2022 | Libby Mettam MLA, State News

The Opposition is calling on the McGowan Government to take urgent measures to address the elective surgery wait list with more than 33,000 patients waiting for elective surgery in WA – the highest on record.

The number is more than 10 per cent higher than the same time last year (29,980) and 65 per cent higher than when Labor was elected.

Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said the McGowan Government was stuck in first gear in a COVID fog and needed to urgently address the ever-growing list.

“While the McGowan Government will no doubt try to blame COVID, the reality is this list has been escalating since they came to power,” Ms Mettam said.

“In March 2017, there were 19,931 patients on the elective surgery wait list, there are now 33,206.”

Ms Mettam said it was disconcerting that hospitals in WA are operating at 50 to 60 per cent of full capacity of elective surgery categories 1, 2 and 3* while states such as NSW have announced an initiative to boost its capacity to 125 per cent by opening theatres after hours.

“If New South Wales, which reported a budget deficit, can put $400m in to fund urgent measures to address their elective surgery backlog then surely the McGowan Government, that is sitting on a $5.7bn surplus, can do the same,” Ms Mettam said.

“We know that staff furlough is part of the issue, but I also question how committed the McGowan Government is to recruiting nurses to ensure our theatres can return to 100 per cent operating capacity.

“While other States are actively trying to recruit and retain vital staff with $3,000 bonuses and pay rises of 3-3.5%, WA is sitting on its hands saying our workers haven’t had to endure the same as those in other states.

“It is inconceivable that the wealthiest state in the country wouldn’t be able to match or better the incentives being offered in other States.”

Ms Mettam said every category of elective surgery (1, 2 and 3) was over boundary (waited longer than recommended) in 2021-22 and that included six months without very little COVID in the community.

“Just because these surgeries are classified as elective does not mean they are not essential and does not mean they aren’t having significant health, social and economic impacts on those patients and their families.

“We have seen some of the less urgent surgeries, including preventative breast cancer procedures, that were cancelled and have now become urgent and life-threatening conditions.

“For others, delays to surgeries such as knee and hip replacements and other orthopaedic surgeries mean their lives are on hold, with many in pain and unable to work and enjoy a normal life.”

“I urge the McGowan Government to think outside the box and follow the lead in other states in actively trying to reduce this wait list before it becomes even more critical.”