Almost 9000 patients have been culled from the elective surgery waiting list since the backlog of surgeries peaked in May 2022, with the Cook Government planning to maintain the record-setting pace with a further $40 million investment. The additional cash, to be contained in next month’s Mid-Year Review, will allow WA Health to continue the catch-up blitz with about 6000 extra procedures over the next six months. Wait times for elective procedures blew out massively during the COVID pandemic, but the overall number of patients waiting has been declining since the start of the year. The number of patients on the waiting list reached 54,090 in May last year — shortly after the borders reopened — but had dropped to 45,488 as of October, a reduction of 8602. WA Health set and then broke records for the number of elective surgery procedures three times since the start of the year: 16,155 in March, 16,314 in May and 17,045 in August. By contrast, just 11,210 operations were carried out in March 2022, 12,233 that May and 15,273 in August last year. Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson attributed the turnaround to “system-wide reform”, including the addition of 571 hospital beds since 2021 and measures especially designed to unclog emergency departments and drive down ambulance ramping. That included funding 120 transitional aged-care beds — usually funded by the Federal Government — to allow older patients to be moved out of hospitals faster. “Our $489.9 million emergency care package to improve access to care and system-wide reform has reduced ramping hours and enabled beds to be freed up so that we can undertake these additional 6000 elective surgeries and procedures,” Ms Sanderson said. “I commend the health services providers for their efforts in reducing elective surgery waitlists and this investment will enable hospitals to undertake even more surgeries.” The $40 million in new money will allow public hospitals to continue operating on weekends and performing twilight procedures, maximising the time theatres are in use. The Cook Government is also planning to make greater use of private hospital capacity, outsourcing more surgeries from the beginning of 2024. Premier Roger Cook said his Government had identified and tackled inefficiencies across the health system. “We won’t leave a stone unturned when it comes to strengthening our health system and helping patients with the care they need,” Mr Cook said. “With our record investment in hospitals and new policies and initiatives in place over recent years, we are seeing positive results as we emerge beyond the pandemic — especially in ramping and elective surgeries. “There is still a lot of work to do, but with the right funding and reform initiatives we can make sure that WA continues to have the best hospital services in Australia.” Last week, Ms Sanderson told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia lunch that “green shoots” were beginning to emerge in the Government’s long fight to drive down ambulance ramping. “Ramping has been down by 30 per cent (between July and October) compared to the same period of the last year,” she said. The 4078 hours that paramedics spent ramped outside hospitals in October was the best result since 2020 (3291), but almost double the 2128 hours from 2019, prior to the arrival of COVID. Despite improvement to elective surgery waiting list, public data from WA Health reported 4893 cases, about 17 per cent, remained “over boundary” as of October. Over boundary cases have waited longer than the maximum recommended time for their operations — more than 30 days for category one surgeries, 90 days for category two and 365 days for category three.