12/05/2020 | Steven Marshall MP | Stephen Wade MLC

The Marshall Liberal Government 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.

“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.

“I want to thank those South Australians who have had their surgery postponed for their patience.

“Their surgery has been on hold, not only for their own safety, but also for the safety of the wider community in the midst of a pandemic.

“I assure everyone waiting for elective surgery that we will move as quickly as possible to reduce the backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic but it will take time.

“The restoration of elective surgery will deliver a welcome return to normality for the thousands of medical professionals who deliver these critical services.

“The Government’s strong plan to protect and prepare South Australia has meant that we are now in a position to progressively ease restrictions.”

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.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said that “in March 2018, the Marshall Liberal Government inherited an overdue elective surgery list of 1,583”.

“We have been investing $45m to bring the overdue list down. By March 2020, we had halved overdue elective surgery.

“COVID-19 has required a shut down of elective surgery which has tripled overdue elective surgeries.

“We have a significant challenge to recover from the pandemic but imagine the mess we would be in if we had not halved Labor’s list before the pandemic.

Minister Wade said 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, just as we had before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will be working hard to maintain PPE supplies and the public health measures that will suppress the virus.

To the extent that we succeed, we will be able to maintain elective surgery activity over the coming months.”

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 electives surgery overdues 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, whilst still remaining COVID-ready.