Beds closed as thousands wait for surgery in Western Australia

Many West Australians could die long before they are able to undergo surgery for painful conditions, the Australian Medical Association (WA) said last week.

"That 31,000 people are waiting to even get in the queue for surgery is an indictment of our public health system when the Government is awash with money," said association President Dr Paul Skerritt.

"Many of these are elderly people who have been suffering chronic pain for years and need hip replacements and other surgical procedures, but can't even get to see a specialist.

"It is tragic that a large number will probably die long before they can get relief from their pain."

Dr Skerritt said that despite the queues for elective surgery and the never-ending pressure on over-crowded emergency departments, hospitals were still closing beds to save money.

In the last two weeks 30 beds had closed at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and another 60 at Royal Perth Hospital and Fremantle Hospital would be closed shortly for refurbishment.

"An opportunity to increase elective surgery and reduce pain and suffering for those on the waiting list has been lost. It's a callous disregard for the needs of patients.

"The Government thinks the flu season is over and they can now cut costs.

"But ED departments still have 20 to 30 patients every day waiting for beds and many people who were due to have elective surgery have been told the operation has been postponed."

Dr Skerritt said frustrated GPs throughout the State had patients waiting to see specialists.

"It's heart breaking for these doctors knowing the pain a patient is suffering and not being able to convince the bureaucracy that they need surgery," said Dr Skerritt. "Even if they get on the official list there are more than 15,000 in the queue ahead of them."

Dr Skerritt said that waiting lists were a major election issue four years ago when Labor was elected on a promise to "fix health."

"Unfortunately, nothing much has changed in that time except the Government devised a strategy to keep the waiting list in check by making it extremely difficult to get on it," he said.

"Meanwhile, many people who can afford to have taken out private health insurance to get the surgery they need.

"But those who can't afford it are probably grassroots Labor supporters who feel let down by their own Government as they desperately wait for elective surgery."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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