NSW hospital virus 'shockwave' subsides

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The "shockwave" of COVID-19 significantly affected activity in NSW public hospitals but the system has almost fully rebounded, new data shows.

The Bureau of Health Information's quarterly report, issued on Wednesday, found NSW emergency department attendances from October to December 2020 were their highest in at least 11 years.

More than 790,000 people attended NSW emergency departments over the period - up 2.1 per cent on the corresponding period in 2019.

More than 62,000 elective surgical procedures were performed in NSW over the same time frame, up nearly eight per cent on the same period in 2019.

Patient admissions to NSW hospitals, which dropped sharply as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia, had returned to pre-COVID levels by October.

BHI chief executive Diane Watson said the effects of COVID-19 on public hospitals differed widely over 2020.

"The arrival of COVID-19 in NSW caused a shockwave that significantly affected activity and performance in our healthcare system, particularly when cases peaked during the initial March-April outbreak," she said in a statement.

"We do see by the last quarter of 2020 that many of those measures had returned to levels closer to 2019."

Dr Watson said there were more than 90,000 people still on elective surgery waiting lists in NSW at the end of 2020. This is 2.4 per cent higher than at the end of 2019 but down from a June 2020 high of 101,124.

Of those patients, almost 6000 had waited longer than the clinically recommended time frame.

BHI also said there were almost 320,000 ambulance call-outs in the October to December 2020 period, the highest final-quarter total since at least 2010.