Patients asked: Give up your bed for virus victims

Patients waiting for non-urgent treatment for ailments such as "a niggly knee" could be asked to postpone their elective surgery as hospitals search for ways to free up beds for an expected wave of coronavirus patients.

With resources already stretched, health officials are putting every option on the table to find ways to meet the feared massive influx of COVID-19 patients.

Involving the community to help free up beds is expected to be among a raft of measures to be discussed at a phone hook-up between Health Minister Brad Hazzard and the 15 chief executives of the state's Local Health Districts tomorrow.

While some districts might be able to rely on local private health services, not all have that option.


As a result, other measures needed to be considered, Mr Hazzard said.

It would be up to the health chiefs to come up with the recommendations with "everything on the table", Mr Hazzard said.

"How we free up beds will be among the hot topics that will be discussed," Mr Hazzard said.

"There can't be one rule for one approach that fits all 15 local health districts.

"Some local hospitals have no appropriate private hospitals that they can borrow services from. The challenge is how we can get every local hospital to free up beds."

Mr Hazzard said he did not want to pre-empt the outcome of the discussion but suggested one option could be encouraging the community to delay non-urgent surgeries.

"It might be a case of asking the community who have been slotted in for elective such as a niggly knee to ask if they can leave it for another six months," he said.

"We need to ask the community what they can do."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. Picture: Rohan Kelly
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. Picture: Rohan Kelly

According to the latest ­Australian Institute Health and Welfare figures, 890,000 patients were added to public hospital elective surgery ­waiting lists nationally during 2018-19 with 760,000 admitted for their surgery in the same period.

In NSW, there were 229,851 admissions.

Elective surgeries are those that are deemed medically necessary, but are not an ­emergency.

Among the most common elective procedures include knee and hip replacements, ­reconstructive surgery and bladder, urethra and some ­kidney procedures.





The nation's chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, warned in Senate ­estimates last week that most elective surgeries in public hospitals would have to be cancelled if the coronavirus continued to spread.

In Italy, one doctor has described the influx of coronavirus patients arriving at his hospital as like a "tsunami".

In the virus epicentre of Wuhan, Chinese officials marshalled workers ­to famously build a 1000-bed hospital in just 10 days.

That option is not believed to be on the table at Mr Hazzard's meeting.