RANZCOG calls for action to address elective surgery backlog


The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

26 February 2024

The peak body for obstetrics and gynaecology and women’s health in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand is calling for urgent funding reform to address the growing number of people waiting for elective surgery.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased pressure on pre-existing, underfunded and under resourced public health systems. Patients are suffering with women being impacted severely.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) President Dr Benjamin Bopp said: “Publicly funded women’s health, at the best of times, is challenging. The current waiting times for elective surgeries for women is adding distress to many and impacting on quality of life, not just for individuals but also their families and communities. This will only get worse without targeted intervention.

“RANZCOG calls on governments to urgently address this issue to assist women to receive the right care at the right time.”

Dr Susan Fleming, RANZCOG Board Director and Chair of Te Kāhui Oranga ō Nuku, said the surgical delays were the tip of the iceberg when it came to the wait for planned care.

Many women with conditions like heavy menstrual bleeding waited to seek care in the first place and then had often seen GPs and specialists and tried other treatments before getting a surgical referral, she said.

“Better, more equitable access to care in the community for women and gender diverse people would ultimately help decrease waiting lists,” Dr Fleming said.

“Some of those issues could be dealt with before there is a need for hospital-based treatment.”

Dr Fleming highlighted the College’s submission on the proposed Women’s Health Strategy being developed by Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health, which calls to prioritise women’s health and focus on the specific and changing health needs women have through their life span.

Surgical training in crisis

As a result of reduced surgical services for women, O+G trainees struggle to get the surgical experience they need to become confident specialists, with the broad skill sets consumers need and expect.

“Governments need to Investigate and put in place well-funded and formulated arrangements with hospitals, both public and private sector, to ensure O+G trainees, the future workforce, is confident and capable to look after the communities’ needs,” Dr Bopp and Dr Fleming said.

Medicine and equipment shortage

Recent years have witnessed a shortage of medicines including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and contraceptive pills, and critical equipment such as epidural kits, as a result of issues across the world with inflation, manufacturing, global supply chain interruptions, COVID, and the sourcing of raw materials.

“It is critical governments ensure there are adequate, ongoing supplies of essential medicines and equipment across all jurisdictions,” Dr Bopp said.

For media enquiries

Catherine Cooper
Executive Director, Aotearoa New Zealand Office
021 137 0748

61 3 9417 1699

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