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More than 6000 elective surgery cases were cancelled by overstretched public hospitals in Perth last year - and doctors predict a worse year ahead.

Health Department figures show 6182 operations, or the equivalent of 17 a day, were cancelled for hospital reasons including emergency cases taking priority or a lack of beds, staff or operating theatres.

In the same period, 68,868 elective surgeries were performed in Perth hospitals and 15,882 were carried out in country areas.

Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong said cancelling more than 6000 operations at the last minute because of resourcing issues was an indictment of the pressure hospitals were facing, and budget cuts meant this year would be worse.

"Elective surgery waiting lists are our canary in the system because they're an indication of how the whole health system is coping and they show it's under stress," Dr Choong said.

"Thousands of patients have faced the major inconvenience of having their surgery cancelled at the last moment, which can have a profound effect on people who have worked themselves up in preparation for an operation. For some, it might mean their conditions will worsen."

Dr Choong said the number of frontline staff was reducing, and this was making it more difficult for hospitals to accommodate patient demand.

Shadow health minister Roger Cook said each cancelled operation meant a patient and their family who were inconvenienced faced many more months of pain and treatment.

"On top of the delays at Fiona Stanley Hospital and building a new children's hospital that's too small, the Barnett Government is letting hospital services slip as well," Mr Cook said.

"These figures come at a time when elective surgery waitlists are climbing, with over 15,700 West Australians now waiting for surgery, an increase of over 400 on the same time last year."

Health Minister Kim Hames said more elective surgeries were being carried out than ever, with 3421 more admissions last year compared with 2012.

"While we had a 5.2 per cent increase in waitlist admissions, there was a 2.8 per cent increase in hospital-initiated cancellations across metropolitan sites, so these latest figures actually show a slight decrease in the rate of hospital-initiated cancellations," Dr Hames said.

The West Australian

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