People booked in for surgery may face cancellations depending on how NSW hospitals fare in coming weeks, as patients on already growing waitlists are left to contend with pain.
A mid-February review into whether non-urgent elective surgeries can resume in NSW is "highly dependent with what happens with respect to hospitalisations," NSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce said on Friday.
"The next week or two will be critical in terms of making a decision."
All non-urgent elective surgery was suspended on January 7 as the state reached 38,625 cases, 1738 hospitalisations and 134 patients in ICU.
The state reported 25,168 new cases on Friday, with 2743 in hospital and 209 in ICU. The number of people in hospital fell for two days consecutively, for the first time in over a month.
"It is never the thing we want to do, to suspend surgery and make people wait for longer," Ms Pearce said.
"We absolutely will be turning surgery back on when we can, but we just can't make a call on that yet."
Alexis Wolfe, CEO of Endometriosis Australia said patients were feeling disappointment and despair.
"Many (patients) have been holding onto that surgery date and looking forward to the possible relief that will come with that surgery," Ms Wolfe said.
"It's just something that is getting further and further away from them."
Public hospital waits for endometrial surgery now extend 18 months, Ms Wolfe said, adding regional patients and some more complex cases requiring multiple surgeons push the queue time further.
The longer elective surgery is cancelled, the more patients will need other types of care and the longer wait lists will grow, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons president Sally Langley said.
"It's called elective surgery, but it's essential surgery to treat people for significant conditions that treat people suffering pain, disease and deterioration.
"Surgery that people need so they can heal, progress, recover."
The cancellations have been occurring around the country over the last two years, Dr Langley said, adding the college of surgeons would like to see more elective surgeries able to continue.
"There's a significant number of people out there who have been waiting longer than they should for their surgeries - they are now in pain, or with conditions that may worsen," NSW Australian Medical Association president Danielle McMullen said.
She stressed many of these procedures were done to lessen pain, and delaying them could prolong a person's discomfort.
"We're hopeful a return to elective surgery might be on the cards," Dr McMullen said.
Non-urgent surgery can include having a gallbladder removed, cataract operations, some types of cancer procedures and hip replacements.
Australian Associated Press
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