Governments, health departments and health administrators in Australia and New Zealand are all working to respond to the rapidly evolving challenges related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including managing the risk to our patients and staff, as well as being prepared for the possibility of large numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Considerations for surgery

Take all necessary steps to delay the spread of the virus. Stay informed and co-operate with the changing requirements of your institution and jurisdiction.

Utilise technology such as telehealth to avoid physical contact with outpatients.

Maintain emergency surgery. To keep beds and theatres available, prepare for the possibility of transferring suitable cases to hospitals that don't provide emergency services.

Prepare for the possibility of reduction or cancellation of elective surgery. In preparing for such cuts, triage patients to ensure that the most urgent Category 1 patients are done first (typically include cancer, cardiovascular and other cases with progressive symptoms).

Postpone all non-essential meetings until the extent of the effect of the virus in Australia and New Zealand is clearer. Minimise the number of people participating in ward rounds.

Protect all staff by ensuring all guidelines e.g. personal protective equipment, meetings, appropriate distance, hygiene are enforced. Within these limitations, clinical training activities for surgical Trainees and medical students at a local level should continue as much as possible.

Conserve personal protective equipment where possible for staff to use in dealing with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 patients.

We are already seeing some medical staff quarantined awaiting swab results and we assume the numbers will continue to rise. Prepare for staff shortages as increased numbers of staff go into isolation. Consider contacting retired staff and those on leave for back-up.

You may be called to work longer hours. Take a break and seek support when you need it. Some jurisdictions have a separate code for leave due to self-isolation for potential COVID-19 exposure.

If you need external support, the RACS Support Program, provided by Converge International, offers confidential counselling and support to Fellows, Trainees, International Medical Graduates, RACS volunteers and their immediate families. Support is free and available 24/7 in Australia and New Zealand.

We have set up a COVID-19 information hub on our website. We encourage you to visit this page regularly for updates.

Useful links