Over the past few months, as the Covid-19 pandemic has taken hold, healthcare systems worldwide have faced many challenges, and the scale of the response and the speed at which healthcare providers have needed to adapt has been exceptional. In this first edition of the newsletter, we’ve shared some examples of how hospitals have coped with the additional pressure and uncertainty.
As I write this, it seems as though we have made it through the worst of the crisis and the country can begin to look ahead, although there is still the danger of a second wave occurring as restrictions are relaxed, potentially coinciding with the normal flu season and causing a surge in hospital attendances over the next few months.
Right now, the challenge will be to start reopening access to healthcare facilities and resuming routine appointments, diagnostic tests and elective surgery. But while limited activity has already started, getting back to normal could take some time, as there will be considerable backlogs to deal with.
A global study published the other week on the impact of Covid-19 on elective surgery estimated that in Australia, around 67,000 operations have been cancelled each week as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic since mid-March. This is thought to have created a backlog of almost 400,000 cases over a six-week period.
The study further estimates that, even if hospitals increase the number of surgeries performed each week by 20 per cent compared to pre-pandemic activity, it would take 22 weeks to clear the backlog. But other estimates suggest this may take more than 18 months, since most states won’t go immediately to full capacity, causing to the backlog to continue to build.
It is likely that there will be a need to upscale capacity temporarily at many hospitals, in order to get on top of waiting lists. One possible solution can be flexible healthcare infrastructure, such as mobile operating theatres, endoscopy units and MRI and scanning facilities, which can be used to rapidly increase capacity substantially. Once the backlog has been cleared, a mobile unit can easily be moved to another site to provide support where it is needed the most.
I hope you will enjoy reading the articles in Healthcare Spaces, a quarterly newsletter specifically aimed at hospital managers, clinicians and facility management teams within the healthcare sector in Australia and New Zealand, with a particular focus on hospital facilities and physical capacity.
Country Manager Australia, Q-bital Healthcare Solutions
Guest Editor, Healthcare Spaces Q2 Newsletter