Medical colleges express grave concerns at Federal Government move to extend private hospital elective surgery deadline

Following our statement yesterday on the Australian federal government’s decision to continue elective surgery, we have had four other colleges also expressing their disappointment.

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and the College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand (CICM) said the reversal of the original decision to stop all non-critical elective surgery in both public and private hospitals from midnight on Wednesday 25 March was inconsistent with advice from leading medical experts and clearly increases the risk to patients and health care workers.

RACS President Dr Tony Sparnon, ANZCA President Dr Rod Mitchell, RANZCOG President, Dr Vijay Roach, CICM President Dr Ray Raper and RANZCO President, Associate Professor Heather Mack said:

  • experience from overseas indicates that we are facing a looming public health crisis that threatens to overwhelm our health care system.
  • the continuation of non-urgent elective surgery undermines our social isolation policy and will certainly expose health care workers to the coronavirus.
  • reserves of anaesthetic medicines are likely to run low and must be conserved for those who will need it most.
  • reserves of personal protective equipment are likely to run out and must be conserved to protect the lives of our healthcare workers.
  • we need to allow our colleagues time to prepare to manage the critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Read the full statement.

Reactions to our statements

We have had many positive responses to our statements on stopping non-critical elective surgery. The support has been overwhelming and includes comments from Fellows, a range of medical staff from anaesthetists, gynaecologists, nurses and members of the public. We’ve also received a few critical comments.

It is at times like this that we must remember our true work is to look after each other, to look after our patients and to be of benefit to society. Our Code of Conduct emphasises these principles as it calls on us to demonstrate integrity and compassion.

We thank our Fellows, Trainees, International Medical Graduates and our other colleagues in the medical workforce for their support and commitment to each other and in joining together to fight this terrible virus.