Compared to many countries, Australia is very well placed in terms of facing both the health and economic challenges of COVID-19. As of the morning of Tuesday, May 12 Australia there has been 6,927 confirmed cases with the vast majority now recovered (6,095). In total, there have been 97 deaths attributed to Covid-19 recorded in Australia. We figured it’s time we discussed Covid-19 Update and Elective Surgeries to be reviewed. Mind you it seems to be changing rapidly too.
Have we dodged a bullet?
I think we now know that we have dodged a bullet – at least for now. The emphasis is on ‘for now’, for as any epidemiologist will tell you, this virus is going nowhere. At least not until we have effective treatments or a vaccine.
Another very important factor about this particular coronavirus is the fact that it’s new, its an entirely novel coronavirus as scientists originally labelled it. Medical practitioners and researchers are still coming to terms with how this particular virus operates. There lies the great uncertainty of this pandemic.
Questions about immunity still exist
We still do not know if people who have come into contact with this virus will develop immunity. Even if they and if so, how long that immunity is effective. There has also been some very concerning new evidence that the virus can cause more damage to our bodies other than respiratory based illnesses. And while rare, there are now some serious new complications identified for children affected by this disease.
Category 2 and Category 3 elective surgery recommencing
What we do know is there seems to be no better place you’d want to be during these uncertain times other than Australia. Last month, the Coronavirus response National Cabinet agreed that Category 2 and equivalent procedures, as well as some Category 3 elective surgery procedures, could recommence across both the public and private hospital sectors.
It was estimated that a gradual restart of elective surgeries would see 1 in 4 closed elective surgery operating lists reopen. This is with flexibility for states to determine the appropriate levels of elective surgery within this general framework.
The federal Department of Health confirmed these arrangements were reviewed. This was done in consultation with all the various state and territory health departments, on May 8 (last Friday).
The review and recommendations by the states and territories to the rollout of increased elective surgeries will be considered by the National Cabinet this Friday, May 15.
There has also been some reporting that Australian hospitals may be facing shortages of crucial drugs that are needed to operate ventilators. This would risk the capacity of intensive care units to respond to a surge in COVID-19 patients and may delay the ramping-up of elective surgery.
Hospitals are struggling to source vital drugs including propofol and cisatracurium that are used to sedate patients before they are intubated. These are needed to take ICUs to full capacity if there is an increase to coronavirus infections that is feared after restrictions are lifted. In the last two months, Australia has more than tripled the number of beds with ventilators to 7500 in preparation for a wave of infections. However, if vital drugs cannot be secured, this will impact the gains made in the increased ICU capacity.
It is reported that the resumption of elective surgery was depleting some of the medicines availability. This led to a warning against increasing the amount of non-essential surgeries without a reliable supply of ventilator drugs. This applies especially to some private hospitals, that may have significantly ramped up elective surgeries using medicines previously put aside for COVID-19 treatment.
Private hospitals had expected an announcement on Monday about further increases to elective surgery, but they currently remain restricted to 25 per cent of their usual surgical theatre capacity, a limit aimed at conserving ICU capacity as some patients may require intensive care after surgery.
Resuming elective surgery
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said resuming elective surgery was vitally important for treating conditions such as cancer. The national cabinet would consider what’s been happening with the rollout of surgery. It will also look at any additional possibilities over the weeks ahead.
Have you downloaded the app yet?
By the way, have you downloaded the app? 5.5 million Aussie have done so this far, so if you haven’t, do your part and download it here.
Photo credit: Alexander Britton/PA Wire URN:53546041 (Press Association via AP Images)
To read our other articles about Covid-19, click here.