Planned care reset is not a quick fix

The Northern region DHBs are working together to deliver a joined-up approach to the return of planned care deferred as hospitals responded to the Omicron outbreak in Tamaki Makaurau.  Collaboration is needed to address the challenges after non time critical surgery and clinics were deferred to help manage workforce and hospital capacity at the peak of the Omicron outbreak.

Time critical surgery continued during the Omicron surge at Middlemore and all non-urgent planned care is being rescheduled as quickly as resources allow.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Connolly says the reset will take time but it’s not only health system constraints that are factors for when someone on a waiting list will make it to theatre. If someone has had COVID-19 it may be clinically safer for surgery to be postponed for up to eight weeks after their recovery.

“A planned knee or hip replacement is an example of a type of operation that might best be delayed for some weeks after a patient has had COVID-19 for a safe and speedy recovery.  

“But in situations like cancer surgery delays aren’t recommended and for these types of time critical surgeries the consultants and specialists will provide the advice on an individual basis.

“The return to surgery is also dependent on hospital bed availability for those patients who are not day surgery cases.

“If anyone is concerned that their condition or symptoms have got worse and we haven’t yet contacted them, we urge people to get in touch with their GP and follow their advice” says Dr Connolly.

Counties Manukau Health Chief Operating Officer Pauline McGrath says globally clinicians are facing challenges regarding the return to planned care after two years of managing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Systems are being flexed to manage both volume and complexity of deferred surgery but there is no quick fix.

“The challenge is getting people into clinics and consultations while at the same time continuing to respond to the pandemic and COVID patients who require hospital level care. We need to manage the return to planned care, respond to the ongoing demands of the pandemic, and help make sure our workforce takes leave and get the rest and recovery they very much deserve” she says.

Regional coordination and equity of access for return to planned care pre-COVID-19 levels is a focus for Counties Manukau Health.

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