Why your elective surgery is facing a big delay

 

Doctors are warning Queenslanders to expect delays in non-urgent elective surgery amid a worldwide shortage of sterilisation wrap, used to keep medical instruments free of infection.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Chris Perry yesterday called on the Palaszczuk Government to invest in developing a local manufacturing solution to the problem.

The sterilisation wrap, brand name Kimguard, is produced in the United States, using materials also found in high filtration face masks.

Professor Perry, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, said a side effect of the increased need for personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic had been a shortage of the sterilisation wrap.

 

A shortage of sterilisation wrap threatens non-urgent elective surgery in Queensland. Photo: iStock
A shortage of sterilisation wrap threatens non-urgent elective surgery in Queensland. Photo: iStock

He said non-urgent category 2 and 3 surgeries may need to be postponed because of the international shortfall - including operations such as joint replacements and tonsillectomies.

"Those sorts of things are under threat of being cancelled until they sort out Kimguard," Professor Perry said.

"It's going to push out the waiting lists."

Non-urgent elective surgery in Queensland's heavily populated southeast was already facing delays as a result of two COVID-19 clusters linked to the Princess Alexandra Hospital's Ward 5D.

About 580 PA Hospital staff were forced into quarantine amid the outbreaks.

As the sterilisation wrap shortage continues to cause problems, Prof Perry called for the establishment of a committee to find an innovative and more environmentally sustainable alternative.

"Many businesses pivoted during COVID and this is another opportunity for manufacturing to find solutions to meet community and industry needs," he said.

New Australian Medical Association Queensland president, Professor Chris Perry. Photo: John Gass.
New Australian Medical Association Queensland president, Professor Chris Perry. Photo: John Gass.

Professor Perry urged Queensland Health to collaborate across the whole of government, industry and the private sector to incentivise manufacturers and start-ups to fill the shortage.

He also called for an audit on the use of disposable wraps and surgical instruments, saying more environmentally friendly options should be considered.

"We need to look at what we do, see if we can do it better, see if we can do it cheaper and just as safe and see if we can help the environment at the same time," Professor Perry said.

"A simple tonsillectomy can generate three garbage bags full of waste.

"We really need to find more environmentally friendly ways to deliver the highest possible health care and sterilisation in a safe, cost effective way."

Queensland Health said it was exploring ways to manage the global sterilisation wrap shortage "moving available stock between our hospitals, limiting wastage, using alternate products where possible and looking at possible local supply options".

"We are treating cases in order of clinical priority at this time," a department spokeswoman said.

Suppliers have indicated a reduced allocation of the sterilisation wrap will continue until July.

Originally published as Why your elective surgery is facing a big delay