All elective surgery other than the most urgent procedures will be put on hold to free up capacity in hospitals dealing with coronavirus, Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday.
Most category two semi-urgent surgeries and all category three procedures, those set to be performed sometime this year, will be suspended indefinitely.
Only category one surgeries are clear to go ahead, state and federal leaders have agreed after urgent pleas from medical professionals.
On Thursday morning, the Prime Minister announced that the National Cabinet had endorsed the recommendation for states and territories to suspend all non-urgent elective surgery and agreed to extend the deadline for the suspension of semi urgent Category 2 and 3 elective surgeries at private hospitals to 11:59pm on April 1.
Mr Morrison said on Wednesday the move was needed to free up resources for healthcare staff.
“All elective surgery other than category one and urgent – I stress very urgent category two cases - will be suspended,” he said.
“Elective surgery will allow the preservation of resources, including personal protective equipment, and allow health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This has already largely been implemented for category one and category two and what this means is a further scaling back of those elective surgeries in category two.”
The decision was quickly welcomed by the Australian Society of Anaesthetists.
"The only way Australian hospitals can effectively prepare for an influx of patients is if we have the time to devote resources to this preparation," president Suzi Nou said.
"We believe that the health system is not yet ready to cope with the likely massive demand for our services."
But Dr Nou said this was just the start and further action with containment measures would be needed.
In joint statement from the medical colleges, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists President, Dr Vijay Roach said “critical gynaecological procedures, including abortion, and all care during birth, including caesarean sections, should continue as usual.”
Urgent, preserving eye surgeries will also be performed, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists president Associate Professor Heather Mack emphasised.
All surgical groups will consult and identify critical procedures that can’t be postponed.
Category one - to go ahead during coronavirus crisis
Dr John Quinn with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons told Yahoo News Australia category one procedures typically include cancer patients, cardiovascular cases and other patients with progressive symptoms that might risk their life.
Category two - most to be suspended during COVID-19 crisis
Category two surgeries are typically patients with gall bladder disease, other bowel conditions that are not cancer and some patients with orthopaedic problems, Dr Quinn said.
Category three - to be cancelled during coronavirus pandemic
People with varicose veins, non malignant skin conditions or joint replacements would fall into this category, Dr Quinn said.
“Those that don’t need surgeries to be done urgently - they’re not a threat to their life or limb,” he said.
Break down of elective surgeries cancelled due to coronavirus
According to NSW Health, these are the categories of urgency when applied to surgeries.
Amputation of limb
Aortic bifurcation graft
Biopsy of muscle or breast (could also be classified category two)
Cholecystectomy - the removal of a gall bladder (could also be classified category two)
Colectomy/Large bowel resection (could also be classified category two)
Coronary angioplasty - to widen obstructed arteries/veins
Coronary artery bypass graft - vein from leg is moved to restore heart blood flow
Cystectomy - bladder removal (could also be classified category two)
Endarterectomy - removal of part of the inner lining of an artery
Endoscopy - (could also be classified category two)
Excision of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer or breast lumps (could also be classified category two)
Excision of melanoma
Excision of squamous cell carcinoma
Femoropopliteal bypass graft - a graft placed around narrowed arteries in upper leg (could also be classified category two)
Gastroscopy - test to look inside oesophagus and stomach
Heart valve replacement
Insertion of hepatic artery catheter
Insertion of ureteric stent
Lymph node excision
Nephrectomy (could also be classified category two)
Pulmonary artery shunt
Radical neck dissection
Removal of skin lesions
Removal of stone from urinary tract
Repair atrial-septal defect
Repair patent ductus arteriosis
Repair ventricular-septal defect
Resection of abdo-aortic aneurysm (could also be classified category two)
Retrograde pyelogram (could also be classified category two)
Tracheostomy (could also be classified category two)
Amputation of digit
Biopsy/conization of cervix
Bladder neck incision
Correction of uretero-pelvic junction
Dilatation and curettage
Dilation of oesophagus
Dilation of urethra
Drainage of sub-dural haematoma
Endoscopy - small intestine
Examination of eye under anaesthesia
Excision lesion of pharynx
Excision of anal fissure (could also be classified category three)
Insertion of ventricular shunt
Liver biopsy (could also be classified category three)
Lobectomy any organ/lung
Orchidectomy (could also be classified category three)
Parotidectomy/Submandibular gland - excision
Pilonidal sinus (could also be classified category three)
Reimplantation of ureters
Release of clubfoot
Tenotomy of hip
Thyroidectomy/hemi-thyroidectomy (could also be classified category three)
Tracheostomy (could also be category one)
Trial of voiding
Vitrectomy (including buckling/cryotherapy)
Bursa – excision
Change of muscle or tendon length
Circumcision (clinical conditions only)
Correction of bat ears
Correction of cleft lip/palate
Correction of ectropian
Diathermy of warts
Drainage of Bartholin's cyst
Excision of chalazion, lipoma, ganglion, melanoma, ovarian cyst and pterygium.
Foreign body – removal (non- emergency)
Freeing abdominal adhesions
Functional Endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS)
Haemorrhoidectomy/Banding of Haemorrhoids
Hammertoe – correction/repair
Hernia – epigastric, repair
Insertion of Levovorgestrel intra uterine system
Insertion P.E, tubes (grommets)
Insufflation of fallopian tube (Rubin's test)
Joint replacement eg. shoulder (other than hip & knee)
Laminectomy/Other Spinal Surgery (excluding diskectomy)
Manipulation under Anaesthetic
Osteotomy – ankle/foot/arm/facial
Osteotomy – hip/femur/tibia/shoulder
Probing of naso/lacrimal duct
Ptosis – repair, correction
Reconstruction of shoulder, fractured orbit and fractured zygoma
Release of carpal tunnel, tongue tie, breast implants, bunion, epididymal cyst, ingrown toenail, pins and plates and skin lesions.
Repair incisional hernia, cystocele, rectocele, Dupuytren's contracture/faciectomy/Palmar
Fasciectomy, exostosis, hiatus hernia, hydrocele, knee cartilage
Repair of knee ligament/ACL reconstruction, rotator cuff, squint and umbilical hernia.
Total hip or knee replacement
Repair trigger finger/thumb
Varicose veins stripping
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