COVID-19 restrictions continue to cause frustration in Bunbury

Cancelled surgeries and visitor restrictions: Hospital issues continue

BUNBURY residents have continued to vent their frustrations over cancelled elective surgeries and patient visitor restrictions at both the Bunbury hospitals in relation to COVID-19.

As announced on March 2, hospitals state wide moved to a 'red' alert system in anticipation of state borders opening on March 3.

The move included reducing the number of category two (semi-urgent) and three (non-urgent) elective surgeries at public hospitals, which stemmed from elective surgeries being paused in February.

WA Health Director General Dr David Russell-Weisz said that the decision to scale back elective surgery bookings had not been taken lightly and that he understood that it would be disruptive for some patients.

"We need to reduce the demand on the WA health system to allow the redeployment of staff to key areas and areas affected by staff absences," Dr Russell-Weisz said.

The Mailspoke to Bunbury residents last month who vented their frustrations over last minute cancellations at the Bunbury Regional Hospital.

Many residents had already completed significant preparation for their surgeries, including taking time off work for recovery, only to arrive at the hospital to be told their surgery had been cancelled.

South West resident Melanie Hooley said she had had her laparoscopic surgery to help diagnose her endometriosis cancelled and rescheduled four times, and was now waiting for a new date.

Although not considered a category one (urgent) surgery, Ms Hooley shared with the Mail the significant pain associated with the health disorder.

"After years of trying different medications and birth control to help the debilitating pain and very heavy periods, I started on my endo journey last year to try and figure it out - but the only way to get an official diagnosis is through laparoscopy," Ms Hooley explained.

"I live in Margaret River so every time I've come to Bunbury for the surgery, taken time off work and paid for accomodation, and just to be told in admissions that it's been cancelled, is a real blow.

"I've now been referred to a hospital in Perth - but the whole experience has been really disheartening and one of the most sensitive parts is I need this laparoscopy because it will determine if I have kids in the future."

WA shadow health minister Libby Mettam called out the state government for it's "unacceptable" elective surgery wait, when WA hospitals to date had only dealt with a handful of COVID-19 hospitalisations.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that with very few cases of COVID in the community for the first two years of the pandemic, cancelling or delaying these surgeries was used a quick fix to ease pressure on the health system with very little consideration of the long-term impact," Ms Mettam said.

"Just because a surgery is deemed elective does not mean it's non-essential and delays can often lead to increased medical complications."

In addition to elective surgery cancellations, chief health officer Dr Andrew Robertson also this month announced new, restrictive hospital visitor guidelines.

The guidelines allowed for only 'essential' visitors to hospital patients, including birth partners, a nominated parent, guardian or carer of a child or person with a disability and/or a support person for someone who is critically ill.

However Dr Robertson altered the guidelines on March 4, one day after the original guidelines were announced, allowing essential visitors to remain with patients outside of standard visiting hours, and allowing patients to have one visitor at a time during designated visiting hours.