BUDGET REPLY: LABOR’S PLAN TO RELIEVE OVERCROWDED HOSPITALS

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A Foley Labor Government will deliver a one-off Elective Surgery Acceleration Plan to cut waiting times and lists for elective surgery and will set up Nurse Walk-In Centres to relieve the pressure on our overstretched emergency departments, outlined today by Opposition Leader Luke Foley in his Budget Reply speech.

Elective Surgery Acceleration Plan

A one-off Elective Surgery Acceleration Plan will target cataract removal, orthopaedic surgery; and ear, nose and throat by expanding these “routine” procedures into smaller hospitals – and other medical facilities.

It will cut lists by 10 per cent and will cost $80 million.

Data released today by the Bureau of Health Information reveals that there are 74, 855 patients waiting for elective surgery in NSW.

NSW patients were waiting for elective surgery longer than patients in comparable countries including Canada and the United Kingdom.

For the elderly in NSW – especially those waiting for knee and hip replacements and cataract removal – they face some of the longest waits for elective surgery in Australia.

As for cataract removal, NSW is almost three times longer than the Australian median. Currently, there are 14, 802 patients waiting for cataract surgery in NSW. The median wait for cataract removal is 230 days in NSW.

Cataract removal is one of the quicker procedures. However, it has to be undertaken one eye at a time so that the patient can see and if there are complications, they are not blinded.

Under the plan, NSW State Government would pay them a single cost for each procedure.  This is what is occurring in the ACT.  This will allow surgical space to be used more efficiently and will improve theatre utilisation in NSW.

The first step would be to establish a surgical taskforce including doctors, nurses and hospital officials to develop plans to improve theatre utilization and make better use of the surgical resources available in order to tackle what has been a long-term challenge in NSW.

The surgical taskforce will also determine when the procedures should take place.

Nurse Walk-In Centres

A Labor Government will also help to ease pressure on emergency departments, which have become crowded with patients who are unable to access bulk billing GPs, by setting up more nurse walk-in centres.

The free nurse walk-in centre is based on similar models from the United Kingdom set up in 2000 and in the Australian Capital Territory in 2010.

To visit a nurse walk-in centre, a Medicare card would be required for admission; however, a fee would not be charged. Patients will be referred to other health care services, if required.

The nurse walk-in centre will complement, not replace, existing primary care services.

They will see patients in “treatment rooms”, which will differ from GP “consulting rooms”. A treatment session can last up to 30 minutes – longer than a traditional GP visit.

Quotes attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“We will conduct a one-off surgery blitz for thousands of patients, conducted outside the busy winter and summer periods, to slash waiting lists for non-elective surgery such as cataract removal and hip and knee replacements.”

“We need innovative ways to relieve pressure on our bursting emergency departments and establishing nurse walk-in centres will provide this free alternative.

“Many families are forced to visit emergency departments with minor ailments because they cannot get into a GP. Emergency departments should only be used for genuine emergencies.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord

“Patients in NSW wait longer for elective surgery than those in Canada and the United Kingdom. The one-off Elective Surgery Acceleration Plan will help to tackle the waiting lists for non-urgent elective surgery such as cataract removal and hip and knee replacements.

“Patients are flooding emergency department because they cannot get into a GP’s practice– putting unnecessary pressure on the State’s emergency departments. Establishing nurse walk-in centres for the treatment of minor ailments will alleviate that pressure.

“Emergency departments are meant for emergencies; not ear aches and minor sprains. Under Labor, families will have a free treatment alternative with nurse walk-in centres and they won’t be caught out trying to find a bulk billing GP.”