Reduction in Victorians accessing healthcare due to COVID-19 first wave

The first wave of COVID-19 has left thousands of Victorians without needed health care. The DHHS annual report released today shows a concerning decline in the delivery of healthcare for the 2019-20 financial year – especially given the figures only include the first three months of COVID-19. 

For Victorians who received treatment in an emergency department, one in four were not treated within the clinically recommended times. While, a quarter of ambulance patients were left waiting on a stretcher in ED for longer than 40 minutes – well below the Government’s own targets.

Cancellations of elective surgery left thousands of Victorians without access to care. The Department expected surgery to be provided to 203,000 Victorians in 2019-20 but actually delivered care to only 171,000 Victorians – meaning 32,000 Victorians have missed out.

However, it was not all good news for those who did receive surgery. Wait times increased with fewer patients treated in recommended times. The quality of care also did not meet expectations with a large number of patients unexpectedly returning to hospital requiring readmission after they had gone home following their treatment.

In 2019-20, 154,000 fewer episodes of care were undertaken in a Victorian hospital, demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 on Victorian’s ability to access treatment. Fewer Victorians visited emergency departments and fewer attended specialist medical appointments than expected, sparking concerns about delayed treatment and future health complications.

The department expected 756,000 visits to emergency departments and just under 2 million specialist medical appointments. Due to COVID-19 there 106,000 less than expected emergency appointments and 258,000 fewer specialist appointment.

It is particularly concerning that unplanned readmissions were well above targets in 2019-20. The report shows 3.7 per cent of patients returning to hospital after a hip replacement, well above the 2.5 per cent target. The report also shows a quarter of Category 2 elective surgery patients were not treated in recommended times.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Health, Georgie Crozier:

“These concerning figures only take into account the first wave of COVID-19 and foreshadow further consequences for healthcare during the second wave­–caused by Labor’s hotel quarantine failures.

“Too many Victorians prior to COVID-19 were not getting the necessary healthcare they required. The first wave of the pandemic has added to the pre-COVID shortfall in healthcare, which the Government must immediately address.

“Further delays will only exacerbate underlying health conditions for thousands of Victorians, leading to ongoing complications that could have been prevented.”

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