Australia opening up for treatments again

Good news for Australian patients as the Australian government allows patients to resume elective (essential non-emergency) surgery from 27 April.

The decision will be reviewed at two and four week intervals from May 11, taking into consideration the number of COVID-19 cases, PPE use and availability, and health system capacity.

Last month the national government mobilised the private healthcare system to help the state system deal with the pandemic.

All non-essential surgery was banned in state and private hospitals, except for Category 1 surgery classed as procedures that need to be performed within 30 days. This category also contains patients who have the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point where the patient’s situation could become an emergency.

Category 2 and Category 3 surgery was banned and is now to be allowed.

Category 2 surgeries need to happen within 90 days. They treat conditions that cause pain or disability, but are unlikely to escalate to an emergency. This could be a standard heart valve replacement.

Category 3 surgeries need to happen within 360 days. While they may cause pain, they are unlikely to deteriorate quickly. This includes a varicose vein procedure.

Surgery that is now allowed again includes IVF procedures, post-cancer procedures, joint replacements including knee, hip and shoulder reconstructions, denture fittings and fillings, eye procedures including cataract surgery and endoscopies including colonoscopies and gastroscopies. It also includes all procedures for anyone under the age of 18.

In Australia there are 2.2 million elective surgeries a year, and two out of three are in private hospitals.

Private Healthcare Australia (PHA), which represents private health insurers, said the decision was good news for Australians living in pain and discomfort. “Many patients who have spent the last month living in distress and uncertainty as a result of the temporary restrictions on elective surgery will now have clarity on when their surgery will take place”.