NSW hospitals to manage elective surgery lists to help double their intensive care capacity in anticipation of more coronavirus cases and winter flu season

PRIORITIES: CCLHD said there would be no impact to emergency and trauma patients, as well as urgent surgery cases, from the measures taken to boost intensive care capacity at local hospitals. Picture: David Stewart
PRIORITIES: CCLHD said there would be no impact to emergency and trauma patients, as well as urgent surgery cases, from the measures taken to boost intensive care capacity at local hospitals. Picture: David Stewart

NSW hospitals are taking steps to double their intensive care capacity in preparation for more COVID-19 cases and the upcoming winter flu season.

A key step will be the activation of plans to manage elective surgery lists.

"Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD) has been planning for this for many weeks and is adjusting its response according to our increasing knowledge about the impact of COVID-19 in NSW and the emergence of evidence about its clinical management," a spokesperson for CCLHD said in a statement on Wednesday.

A key component of these plans is ensuring that patients with the highest clinical urgency are prioritised.

CCLHD has implemented changes to non-urgent surgery and outpatient clinics as part of its response. This includes:

  • working with clinicians to prioritise surgery cases which will include the rescheduling of some cases to allow us to enhance intensive care capacity; and
  • conducting outpatient clinic appointments over the phone or video where possible to reduce close contact.

CCLHD chief executive Dr Andrew Montague said there would be no impact to emergency and trauma patients, as well as urgent surgery cases.

"Emergency, trauma and urgent surgery cases will occur with our clinicians assessing each patient's clinical need as to the urgency of care needed," he said.

"This move will free up staff working in or supporting our operating theatres to immediately undertake more specialised training so they can be redeployed to work in intensive care or other critical care areas.

"The aim is to double our current intensive care capacity.

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"Meanwhile, to further reduce any possible risk for patients and staff, outpatient clinics will be moving to phone consultations and telehealth review, where possible, and if face-to-face consultations are required, social distancing measures will be implemented in waiting areas."

Dr Montague said CCLHD staff would communicate directly with affected patients to advise them of any changes to their upcoming surgery or outpatient clinic appointment.

"As has been foreshadowed from the outset of this crisis, it is anticipated that significant adjustments will be required as we prepare our facilities for the coming weeks and months," he said.

"While we appreciate any rescheduling is regrettable, we hope the community will understand it is necessary to ensure those with the most urgent need are attended to first.

"As part of the pandemic plans in place, we are also working with local private providers to outsource some of our non-urgent elective surgeries, helping to minimise the impact on those currently waiting for a procedure."

The community is reminded that restrictions have already been put in place limiting the number of people who can visit patients during reduced visiting hours from 6pm to 8pm and visitors should not enter hospitals or healthcare facilities if they are feeling unwell.

"We urge everyone to be part of the solution by practicing good hygiene, staying home if you are sick and keeping your distance from others as much as possible by social distancing," Dr Montague said.

The state government announced a $2.3 billion health boost and economic stimulus package to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak last week.

NSW Health will receive $700 million extra funding as part of the package to assist in doubling ICU capacity, preparing for additional COVID-19 testing, purchasing additional ventilators and medical equipment, establishing acute respiratory clinics and bringing forward elective surgeries to private hospitals.

For advice and information on COVID-19 visit preview.nsw.gov.au/covid-19

For details on our local testing clinics visit bit.ly/3bmsUTY

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