Elective surgery restarts but with growing concern Australia’s post COVID-19 health hangover may have deep impact

Medicines Australia welcomes today’s announcement by Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison that elective surgery will “gradually restart” from next week following nearly a month of suspension – but urges increased concurrent attention on Australia’s chronic health care needs to help reduce a significant post COVID-19 health hangover.

Medicines Australia CEO Elizabeth de Somer said the restarting of elective surgery was a great sign of the road out from COVID-19 but believes general healthcare must now be an area of focus.

“While elective surgery is extremely important, we have seen a marked drop-off in pathology testing and GP visits as a result of COVID-19. The pathology sector alone has seen a 40 per cent drop in routine pathology testing in recent weeks, meaning over 60,000 Australians every day are not getting the tests they need,” said Ms de Somer.

“Not maintaining the nation’s regular health priorities may have catastrophic consequences – for instance taking backward steps in managing diseases like diabetes, or the difference between a stage two and stage four cancer diagnosis.

“Hospitals, GPs and pathology centres are well equipped to comply with the rigorous COVID-19 hygiene practices and telehealth measures are actively in place. I strongly urge patients and carers to continue with their regular consultations, tests and care arrangements – so we don’t generate a significant back-log as our social distancing measures are relaxed,” she said.

The decision by the National Cabinet on elective surgery will see restrictions eased on about 25 per cent of activity in elective surgery in private and public hospitals.

This includes procedures like IVF, screening programmes, cancer reconstructions, and joint replacements.

The pharmaceutical industry stands ready to support hospitals and healthcare workers as they recommence elective surgeries.

“Pharmaceutical manufacturers have worked with wholesalers, hospitals and the Federal Government to ensure there are supplies of medicines and products needed for surgery as it recommences,” said Ms de Somer.

“This includes increasing the supply of critical care medicines and protective equipment for hospital workers as well as diagnostics and devices like ventilators.

“As an industry we have also been working very closely with patient groups on ways to best communicate the importance of maintaining continuity of care.

“Right now, we need to ensure Australians are as healthy as possible with this challenging backdrop in order to lessen the effects of COVID-19 and to minimise the future long-term health hangover that will impact our hospital and healthcare system potentially slowing down our recovery,” concludes Ms de Somer.

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More information – Natalie Wimmer – nwimmer@medaus.com.au – 0450 728 660