Elective surgery classed as “non-urgent” will begin resuming next week as waiting lists grow, but those seeking a procedure in Sydney’s public hospitals will have to keep waiting.
The government announced on Tuesday procedures could resume in private hospitals that are below 75 percent capacity, as well as regional and rural public hospitals.
Wait times for elective surgery have blown out during the pandemic as surgeries are cancelled to prevent overwhelming hospitals dealing with coronavirus outbreaks.
A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing found those waiting longer than a year for elective surgery make up 7.6 percent of the national waitlist, up from 2.8 percent in the previous period.
Those figures were from the 2020-21 financial year, and do not include information from the suspensions of non-urgent elective surgery since June 30.
Opposition leader Chris Minns said on Tuesday the government needs to provide more funding to clear pandemic backlogs and get people off the waitlists.
“Many of them are in severe pain and need this surgery to get their lives back on track,” Mr Minns said.
Australian Medical Association NSW President Danielle McMullen says the government needs to plan better for future outbreaks and not “use elective surgery as a lever to fix workforce resourcing problems”.
Elective surgery was due to resume later in the month but Mr Perrottet says the state being able to bring the restart forward “is a testament to the strength of our health system”.
It comes as case numbers continue to trend downward and hospitalisations stabilise.
The state reported 12,818 new coronavirus cases and 30 deaths on Tuesday.
There are 2749 people with COVID in hospital, 184 of them in ICU and 70 are ventilated.
But a rise in cases is anticipated following the return of children to classrooms, with public students heading back to school on Tuesday.
Mr Perrottet said there will be bumps along the way and “it won’t be all smooth-sailing” but “there’s nothing more important” than getting children back in classrooms.
“I know that many parents are anxious … but the alternative is to have schools closed and … it’s not the outcome that’s best for our kids,” he said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Opposition and unions have called on the government to drop “silly” legislation that would remove a presumption that workers in some industries who catch COVID-19 caught it at work and are entitled to workers compensation.
The bill was sent to the upper house for approval the day before Australia’s first known Omicron cases landed at Sydney airport on November 25, kicking off an outbreak that has infected more than a million people in NSW since.
The Legislative Council will resume sitting on February 22.