Surgery lists set to explode

BORDER residents face an escalation in elective surgery waiting lists that won’t be stopped by this week’s return of $1.1 million in funding.

About 3000 people are on the waiting list, which is expected to balloon to 6000 by the end of June.

It has been suggested that this could double again to 12,000 by the end of the 2013-14 financial year.

“The fatal blow has been delayed for a short time but it’s still pretty bad,” Border Medical Association chairwoman Tracey Merriman said.

Albury Wodonga Health has been able to avoid closing operating theatres or beds at Easter after the federal government this week reinstated $1.1 million in funding.

Albury Wodonga Health chief executive Stuart Spring said it was trying to reverse as many of the cuts as possible, though was unlikely to be able to spend that money during what was left of the current financial year.

Dr Merriman said the $1.1 million did nothing to stop the $2.5 million to be cut from the Border health budget from March 4.

“Our waiting list is already huge,” she said.

“We badly need more beds, more facilities and more money to set up a cardiology-vascular surgery service.”

Dr Merriman said the 30 per cent cut reduction in elective surgery meant the waiting list was again going to rocket.

“As specialists in all disciplines we can see that it means that if you have anything that is a non-urgent procedure your chance of getting it done in the public system in Albury-Wodonga is very low,” she said.

“We all see patients who absolutely require things to be done who just aren’t going to be able to get it.

“It’s not because we don’t have a great local cohort of staff, whether it’s medical, nursing or allied health.

“We just don’t have the beds and infrastructure.

“That 30 per cent reduction is vast, that’s just going to decimate what’s going on.”

One senior Border health worker said the fear was that specialists unable to access the public hospitals would pack their bags and leave — and it was unlikely they would return.

And he said the 3000 waiting list figure could in fact be more like 4500, as procedures such as a colonoscopy and a caesarean section were not included.

It can take up to six years to get a vascular surgeon to the Border and up to 18 months to attract an anaesthetist