Simple things like walking to the end of the driveway to check the letterbox are getting harder for Julie Monopoli, as she waits for South Australian authorities to allow her surgery to go ahead.

Key points:

  • The state government put a freeze on some elective surgeries last month
  • Surgeons claim private hospital staff and resources are available
  • They are calling on the government to allow more surgeries to go ahead

She lives with scoliosis, where the vertebrae do not form a straight line but are curved — a condition which she describes as “debilitating”.

“Because of the pain, I can’t really focus on things,” Ms Monopoli said.

Despite her pain, discomfort and trouble walking, her surgery was not classified as urgent enough to happen under the state’s current pandemic restrictions, which limit elective surgeries in order to preserve resources for COVID-positive patients.

Ms Monopoli found out on Friday her surgery was canceled and, with authorities yet to announce when more elective surgeries could resume, she has joined the long list of people with no date for when their surgery could proceed.

“It will help me lead a better life and hopefully get rid of this neck pain that I’ve got at the moment,” she said.

Surgeons claim private hospitals in South Australia have been sitting “idle” and have the staff, operating theaters and beds to enable more elective surgeries.

Some are calling on the state government to ease the freeze on non-urgent surgeries.

Neurosurgeon Matthew McDonald says operating theaters and staff are available. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

Adelaide neurosurgeon Matthew McDonald said he had received phone calls from patients in tears, wanting to know when more procedures would be allowed.

“These patients are really suffering,” Professor McDonald said.

“Even though it’s elective surgery, it’s really important surgery.

“These people might have trouble walking, they might have trouble working because of their pain.”

In the three weeks since the freeze on certain types of elective surgery was put into place, Professor McDonald said he had canceled 25 operations.

“Every week, there’s going to be five or 10 patients added to the operating waiting list — and that’s just me,” he said.

Professor McDonald said canceling elective surgery was unnecessary and led to private hospital staff “not doing much”.

“We’ve had idle operating theatres, we’ve had teams ready to operate,” he said.

Rather than his usual operating day on Friday, Professor McDonald was instead doing paperwork, in a sign of how quiet his operating schedule had become.

A hospital entrance with an emergency sign Surgeons claim private hospitals in Adelaide are sitting “idle”. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

The rationale for the government’s decision to pause various elective surgeries was to make extra resources available for managing COVID, but Professor McDonald said private hospitals had the ability to be ready within two or three days and did not need to be restricted for weeks.

Spine and orthopedic surgeon Mike Selby described a similar experience, with only a third of operating theaters being used.

“When you go into the hospital, basically whole sections of the ward are just shut, it’s a ghost town,” he said.

Dr Selby wanted all “category two” elective surgery cases — which are those that require treatment within 90 days — to be allowed in private hospitals, given the resources were available.

Nicola Spurrier speaking to the media Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier has said she doesn’t want bans on elective surgeries to last “too long”. (ABC News)

Otherwise, he warned, there would be big backlogs into the future, especially for public patients.

Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said from a clinical perspective she did not want bans on elective surgeries to last long because many people needed to have their operations done.

But she said the current priority was to boost the COVID-19 vaccination rate in the community, which private hospital staff were helping to do.

Ms Spurrier said it was “too early to say” when the surgeries could resume, but it was “top of our agenda” to keep monitoring when the rules could be eased.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 7 minutes 4 seconds7m video.  Duration: 7 minutes 4 seconds I’ve had COVID, can I get it again?

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Loading form…