NSW Health records its busiest quarter ever as western Sydney’s elective surgeries rise by over 50%

The second quarter of 2021 was the busiest the NSW Health has recorded in Emergency Department presentations, elective surgeries performed, ambulance responses and babies born according to the latest Bureau of Health Information (BHI) Healthcare Quarterly report.

It came as the system recovered from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with just the first week of the current outbreak recorded in this quarter.

These figures from April to June 2021 are not unexpected and confirm what NSW Health has been discussing publicly since early last year – the significant pressures associated with preparing for and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The best way for everyone in NSW to protect their health, the health of their loved ones, and to reduce the pressure on the health system and our fantastic workforce is to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Western Sydney

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) performed 100 per cent of its 1,345 urgent elective surgeries on time in the April to June 2021 period according to the BHI report.

In total, WSLHD performed 5,156 elective surgery procedures during April to June 2021, an increase of 1,755 procedures, or 51.6 per cent, compared with the same quarter last year.

All the surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, and bookings and administration staff of WSLHD deserve recognition for their phenomenal effort.

WSLHD emergency departments had a record 51,702 attendances from April to June 2021, an increase of 10,813 people or 26.4 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2020.

“I am immensely proud of all our staff for the way they continue to adapt to the challenges of this pandemic and work hard to provide the best care in exceptional circumstances,” said WSLHD chief executive Graeme Loy.

“Our emergency departments and hospitals remain open and able to provide care to anyone who needs it in western Sydney.”

Across NSW Health

NSW Health Deputy Secretary of Patient Experience and System Performance Wayne Jones said the quarter represents a period of recovery in the NSW Health system. 

“The April-June 2021 reporting period demonstrates the resilience of the NSW Health system and, in particular, our extraordinary staff,” Mr Jones said. 

“In this period, the system bounced back from the impacts of the first wave of COVID-19 and, in particular, the national halt of elective surgery in 2020,” Mr Jones said.

“Through this period, our Emergency Departments were the busiest they have ever been, with a record 806,728 attendances to Emergency Departments at NSW public hospitals.”

This represents an increase of 52,267 (6.9 per cent) compared to the same quarter in 2019, before the pandemic began. 

This quarter also represented a period of recovery for the system with NSW Health performing 64,599 elective surgeries.  This represents an increase of 5,330 (9.0 per cent) compared to the same quarter in 2019 and the highest number ever recorded in the April-June quarter. 

“With the help of our private hospital partners, we also reduced the number of people on the elective surgery waiting list at the end of last quarter by over 15 per cent (from 101,024 to 85,296).

“We were able to catch up surgeries which were delayed last year and this has put us in a much better position with the current restriction on elective surgeries in NSW as we battle the current COVID-19 outbreak.”

The stats

Between mid-2012 and mid-2021, WSLHD increased its workforce by an additional 2,199 full-time equivalent staff – an increase of 23.9 per cent including 421 more doctors, 1,000 more nurses and midwives and 105 more allied health staff.

Almost nine in 10 elective surgeries (89.3 per cent) were performed on time this quarter. On-time performance for non-urgent surgery also improved to 84.3 per cent, while almost all urgent surgeries (99.7 per cent) continued to be performed on time.

The quarter also saw a large growth in the number of babies born, with a boom corresponding with the height of the pandemic in NSW in 2020. 

Between April and June 2021, 19,113 babies were born in NSW public hospitals, the highest number since BHI reporting began and representing a significant upswing compared with the declining birth rate over the last 10 years.

In the 2021-22 Budget, the NSW Government announced $1.1 billion to continue the state’s response to COVID-19, including:

  • $340.0 million to fund personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and associated warehouse costs to keep our frontline workers safe;
  • $261.3 million for COVID-19 vaccine distribution;
  • $200.0 million for pop-up clinics, testing and contact tracing;
  • $145.4 million for returning travellers in quarantine requiring medical assistance;
  • $80 million to continue additional elective surgery; and
  • $30.0 million for the ongoing enhanced level of cleaning within health facilities.

This takes the total commitment to the health system to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to more than $4 billion since March 2020.