Published: 27 August 2020

Legislative Council Wednesday 26 August, 2020 


With regard to the number of ear, nose and throat - ENT - surgeries in Tasmania prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and further reductions made to assist with COVID-19 health planning -

(1) Were the number of ENT surgeries reduced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic measures? If so, what was the reason for this reduction and what impacts did it have on waiting lists and waiting times?

(2) What decisions regarding reductions in ENT surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic were made as with all areas of electric surgery?

(3) What are the current waiting times in the north-west for Category 1 ENT surgery?

(4) What are the actions taken to facilitate access to Category 1 or urgent ENT surgery, especially when related to cancer?


Mr President, I thank the member for Murchison for her questions.

(1) The Launceston General Hospital added additional theatres to clear the majority of the waiting list for ENT surgeries late in 2019/early 2020. Levels were then profiled following this activity. There are currently 85 patients on the combined north-west ENT surgery waiting list.

(2) From 25 March to 27 April 2020, all non-urgent elective surgery was suspended. Only Category 1 and some urgent Category 2 surgery, including ENT surgery, were prioritised. Less urgent Category 2 and all Category 3 surgical cases were deferred during the early COVID-19 period.

(3) During the North West Regional Hospital closure, all surgeries, including ENT, ceased. All ENT surgeries ceased early in the COVID-19 pandemic because of the risk of surgery to all staff in the operation theatres with airway surgery, which is considered an aerosol-generating procedure.

Tasmania's approach was in line with all other states as well as with the early advice from ENT colleges around the world. All elective surgeries, including ENT surgery, have now resumed to pre-COVID-19 activities.

(4) I am advised that as at 26 August, there are currently four Category 1 patients with an average waiting time of 18 days.

(5) The LGH has one staff specialist ENT surgeon and two operating the ENO/ENT surgeons. Access is available for Category 1 surgeries. The LGH has two plastic surgeons trained in head and neck cancer surgery and patients with these cancers are cared for by a combination of plastic surgeons and the staff specialist ENT surgeon.

The North West Regional Hospital has a single ENT surgeon who works with the Department of Surgery and Perioperative which continues to make available theatre sessions as and when clinically appropriate.


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