Surgery delay leaves Victorians in agony

·3-min read

After years living with an aggressive form of endometriosis, Danielle Noon has spent the past six months waiting for life-changing surgery.

It took four years for her to be diagnosed with the condition which can cause painful periods, cramping, nausea, back and bowel pain.

Earlier this year she found out she had deep infiltrating endometriosis and was booked in for surgery.

But Ms Noon will have to wait in agony for at least another six months.

Last week she was told her private hospital procedure, scheduled for mid-December, had been delayed due to surgery caps imposed by the Victorian government.

"I basically spent two days crying. I'm exhausted and this has completely broken my spirit," she told AAP.

"I was literally counting down how many periods I'd have to go through until I could get surgery."

Her operation has been postponed until March or April 2022. She will soon enter her last year at university, with a busy few months of work placements ahead.

"The thought of navigating all my placements next year, still in this amount of pain each month, seems unbearable," she said.

"I honestly don't have the tools to be able to deal with a setback like this."

The surgery is needed to stop tissue growing, which could break through her bowel wall. Despite this, her procedure is considered non-urgent.

Ms Noon is one of thousands facing delays, after 18 months of changing COVID-19 restrictions led to significant wait lists.

As of September 30, 67,000 Victorians were waiting for elective surgeries.

Two weeks ago the state government allowed hospitals to increase surgeries up to 50 per cent capacity, but health bodies say this is not enough.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons says government plans to gradually increase elective surgeries are "too slow" and risked running into Christmas, when many health workers will take holidays.

RACS has sent a proposal to the state's health department to support "rapid" change to the current system, calling for the 50 per cent cap to be removed.

"We believe that the current stabilisation of the COVID-19 situation with high vaccination rates, fall in the number of COVID-19 cases and a gradual reduction in hospital in-patient ICU cases presents an ideal window of opportunity for government to restore surgery to full capacity," president Sally Langley said.

It is calling for more transparency about how these decisions are made, and said many small private hospitals should be permitted to recommence surgery with no cap, since they do not form part of the COVID response.

Additionally, larger hospitals "have significant unused operative capacity" that could be used to address private and public sector wait lists.

The Australian Private Hospitals Association said anyone waiting for surgery at a private hospital is facing "long waits for some time to come".

APHA chief executive Lucy Cheetham said deferred procedures included total knee and hip replacements and cataract surgery, impacting a patient's ability "to move around or to see".

A Victorian government spokeswoman said it would "continue to adopt a staged approach" to increasing non-urgent surgeries.

"We always said we would increase our elective surgery capacity when we could and we'll have more to say soon on any further capacity increases," she said.

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