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Elective surgeries slowly getting back underway after Covid-19 forces cancellation of operations

Elective surgeries are slowly getting back to being performed after Covid-19 forced the cancellation of tens of thousands of operations.

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The pandemic forced the cancellation of tens of thousands of operations with the backlog a big challenge for our health system. Source: 1 NEWS

Mobile Health's surgical bus is helping ease the backlog of surgeries inundating the health system.

Franco Prisco had his hernia surgery after living in pain for six months but the surgery wasn’t carried out in a typical hospital.

“That is a huge surprise. I was always expecting the surgery to be done in a main hospital in Christchurch, so being out here in Rangiora on a hospital bus, that's very novel for me, obviously,” Mr Prisco said.

“After the surgery, I can lift my children. I have a little four-year-old. I can go for longer walks, I can go on bike rides, so everything will be much more comfortable.” 

The medical unit, which carries out around 45 surgeries a week, started operating early this morning after sitting idle for six weeks.

“Oh, it's wonderful. I thought that I was going to be in a warzone for a lot of the lockdown but it's turned out that a lot of us anaesthetists have been twiddling our thumbs and it’s great to actually get back and do something,” specialist anaesthetist Dr Nathan Kershaw said.

Dr Kershaw had braced himself for the worst.

“We were terrified in health ... because it felt like war was coming and no one was listening to us,” a emotional Dr Kershaw said.

The demand is expected to increase as surgery resumes.

“The wall of demand is going to be coming and it's going to be coming thick and fast because people's illnesses haven't stopped," Mobile Health CEO Mark Eagle said.

It’s expected to take at least four months to catch up.

“This is the big challenge for the system is to do as much of that work as possible whilst still dealing with any acute care needs that come through the door,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

The country’s district health boards are now calling on private hospitals help to manage the backlog.

The Canterbury DHB had earlier postponed over 1100 inpatient admissions over the lockdown. It hopes to reach 85 per cent of pre-Covid-19 surgery volumes over the next four weeks.

“The [Health] ministry's given no formal number,” the Private Surgical Hospitals Association's Richard Whitney said.

“We would estimate it would be in the order of 30,000-plus deferred elective surgery cases for the month of April."