A worldwide shortage in surgical wraps has caused Albury Wodonga Health to cancel semi-urgent and non-urgent surgeries, with one waiting patient saying the "appalling" decision had left her living in daily pain.
Albury Wodonga Health confirmed to The Border Mail it was not booking category two or category three surgeries in a bid to preserve supplies for emergency and urgent cases.
Category two surgeries are classed as semi-urgent, which require treatment within 90 days, while category three surgery is non-urgent and needs treatment within 12 months.
"Although we make every attempt to minimise delays to elective surgery, priority needs to be given to patients suffering from acute trauma and in critical need of lifesaving surgery," AWH chief operating officer Emma Poland said.
Beechworth's Christine Stewart said it could be years until she underwent a double knee replacement, a category three surgery.
"I got accepted for surgery last July and have been trying to find out how long it will be, I've been told it could be up to three years," she said.
"If you look at the statistics there are thousands waiting for elective surgery."
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Ms Stewart, who cares for her terminally ill husband, Bob, said the uncertainty left her feeling powerless and relying on strong pain killers.
"It's appalling we deserve better," she said.
"Anyone left in limbo is not good enough, you start developing mental health issues, I'm in pain and not knowing when things might happen so can't start planning."
In Victoria, elective surgery was cancelled for much of last year due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, something that had just made the situation worse, Ms Stewart said.
"(Elective surgery cancellations) happened during COVID and a lot of health issues happened last year but it was all put on hold," she said.
"There are backlogs everywhere.
"My husband is on full time oxygen and (the pain) makes it hard for me to care for him as well as himself.
"Who cares for the carer?"
A Victorian Health Department spokesman said hospitals were working hard to cover for a world-wide shortage of surgical wraps.
The polypropylene product is made from the same material used to manufacture PPE equipment and ensures surgical instruments remain sterile until these are unwrapped for surgery.
The global demand for PPE has led to an Australian-wide shortage of the fabric, which is sourced predominately from China and the US.
The department maintained no elective surgeries had been cancelled.
The spokesman said they remain confident "sharing and distributing the sterilisation wrap across the hospital system would avoid any impact on elective surgery".
"An alternative supply chain is being established and we will continue to order as much as possible from this supplier," the spokesman said.
However, for patients such as Ms Stewart the worldwide origins of the problem did nothing to lessen her anxiety and pain.
"Our health is at risk," she said.
"If I go down, and I can easily fall because I need the double knee replacement, we're in real trouble in the household
"My husband wants to pass away at home."
Ms Stewart said she was just one of many people left waiting.
"I'm not alone in my concerns at all," she said.
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