Study identifies day-of-surgery crisis

A study from Sydney University's Centre for Health Services based at Westmead Hospital, has shown that more than one in 10 operations over a six month period were cancelled at the last minute.

The researchers studied more than seven thousand theatre sessions at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital between May and November 2002 and found that 941 (around 12 per cent) failed to proceed at the last minute, wasting valuable resources and causing undue distress to waiting patients.

William Schofield and Professor George Rubin, authors of the report, which appears in the most recent issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, identified a number of key causes. Top of the list were a lack of theatre time because of an over-run of previous surgery, a lack of post operative beds, patient cancellation and a change in the patient’s condition. They found that 60 per cent of cancellations of elective procedures were potentially avoidable, and that ear, nose and throat surgery was the most likely to be cancelled followed by cardiothoracic operations.


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