The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital is all set to cancel several hundred operations over the next three months, with the cancellations of elective surgeries beginning yesterday.
According to a leaked memorandum, this would mean that up to 1800 patients would be unable to have a surgery in a three-month period.
The Acting General Manager of the Central Area Health Service, Terry Mehan, underplayed the importance of the memo, commenting, "What's occurred over the last three months because of nursing shortages, is that there's been an average of two-three lists cancelled per day, so we're not losing the capacity in terms of the cancellations because they've already been happening".
"What we're trying to do is by reducing the planned list is to reduce the amount of cancellations we have at short notice. When we have patients booked in and we can't staff the list, you might have a cancellation in about 24 hours notice. What we're saying now, is we're going to book the amount of elective lists we have staff for to reduce the amount of cancellations," he added.
Mr Mehan blamed the increased number of emergency surgeries for the cancellations.
The leaked memo points to a shortage of staff, such as nurses and technicians, as being the reason for the cancellations and according to Mr. Mehan, that's a problem that Queens land Health is trying to overcome.
However, Bruce Flegg, Opposition Health Spokesperson, insists that the cancellations are a disaster. "Currently the Royal Brisbane has 6000 people waiting for elective surgery... this memo cancels 1800 of these 6000 people. It's a disaster for the patients - it may well mean that some of these people will even lose their lives"
"It's also a disaster for doctors," he continued "because we're talking here now about orthopedic surgery, vascular sugery, neurosurgery, ear, nose and throat surgery - much of this is done by visiting specialists... these doctors have suddenly got a memo saying, we're canceling your lists... it damages the morale of the doctor - it makes them wonder what they're doing working in the public system, when they could be working in a much more efficient private system."
. "We're seeing across the state an increase of over 10% in emergency surgery, and when you have more emergency surgery than you expect, you cancel elective surgery to make way for the critically ill patients so the patients that are on the elective list can be rebooked, but the emergency patients have to be seen straightaway... so we've also increased the amount of emergency capacity by 2 lists, so the net affect is about 4 lists per day and we've been losing 2-3 lists a day due to staff shortages."
Dr Flegg fails to see an improvement in staffing. "This time last year, they were blaming cancellations on lack of anesthetists, now they're blaming nurses and anesthetic technicians, despite the fact that the government's just spent a fortune telling Queen slanders they've got an extra 1200 clinical staff."
Queens land Health will now be sending elective cases that need to be carried out urgently to the private system. Mr. Mehan said, "We've made provision for the contracting out to private hospitals of these cases and that's dealt with on a case-by-case basis, so where we see a patient that's getting to a time that is unacceptable, those patients will be given the option to go to private sector".