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Electives only half the story

Electives only half the story

A drop in elective procedures is a symptom of a public health system overwhelmed by acute patients surging into hospitals requiring immediate and often life-saving care, says Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) Executive Director Ian Powell.

A story (paywalled) in the Herald on Sunday today shows that for the first time in a decade the annual number of elective (pre-planned non-acute procedures) has dropped. The figure is almost 6000 surgeries lower than the previous year.

Mr Powell says the ASMS report Hospitals on the Edge released last month revealed that acute hospital admissions were growing at twice the rate of population. The report can be read here:

“Acute patients must be prioritised by our overworked and under-resourced hospital specialists and other health staff. But this exacerbates a vicious cycle whereby less urgent but important work is deferred, leading to more and more acute sickness.”

Mr Powell says both National and Labour led governments have failed to invest in the specialist workforce, leading to an estimated 24% shortfall in specialists working in our public hospitals.

Mr Powell says it is telling that Health Minister David Clark is pointing to the number of overall hospital discharges (more than a million) in his response to the newspaper.

“All this illustrates is the total load on our hospitals, which includes the acute discharges that are overwhelming the system.”

In recent months ASMS has been asking DHB senior management for information about the acute demand surge and most have acknowledged the problem’s magnitude.


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