AMA supports steps for resuming elective surgery

23 Apr 2020

The AMA has been in contact with the Federal Government to propose steps needed for the resumption of elective surgery – initially for low-risk, high-patient-benefit procedures.

Elective surgery in Australia was suspended in Australia in March to free up beds and health workers to cater for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients, and to save scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns, and gloves.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today that doctors should be supported to make clinical decisions about which surgeries can proceed in the best interests of patient and clinician wellbeing and safety.

Dr Bartone said that National Cabinet should adopt a phased timetable to restart some elective surgery providing that, preparing for surgery, there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all clinicians, and that any surgeries that involve a high risk of COVID transmission are avoided.

“The rationale to cautiously and gradually restart elective surgery authorised by doctors is to assure patient wellbeing. Many elective surgeries are for health conditions that will only worsen over time,” Dr Bartone said.

“A gradual loosening of restrictions is also consistent with the Government’s and the AMA’s view that patients should not ignore existing health concerns, and seek medical care when needed.

“We support a graduated restart of all Category 2 elective surgeries across all specialties, in addition to the current Category 1. Following an assessment of a gradual restart, where practicable, Category 3 procedures could then be considered.

“Doctors should be authorised to make decisions about what surgeries can proceed in the best interests of patients and clinicians.”

Dr Bartone said that one of the determining factors in maximising the operation of the private hospital system – be it for work directed by State Governments or private elective surgery work - will be the adequate supply of PPE.

Read the full media release here.