Surgery waiting lists in Western Australia would be reduced significantly under a $10 million program announced today by Premier Carmen Lawrence.
Dr Lawrence said the cornerstone of the initiative would be a new 20-bed, short-stay surgical unit comprising two operating theatres and a small day ward.
In addition, the capacity of existing hospitals to handle surgical procedures would be enhanced.
"In total, the new program will allow about 6,000 more surgical procedures to be carried out each year, significantly reducing waiting time and waiting lists," Dr Lawrence said.
She said the program was part of the Government's commitment to lasting reductions in hospital waiting lists and to improving the quality and efficiency of surgical services.
This latest initiative would complement other strategies to reduce waiting lists including the allocation of more than $14 million for additional procedures and the establishment of a new cardiac surgery unit at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
"The Government has now committed more than $34 million this financial year to better hospital services," Dr Lawrence said.
The Premier said an advisory board, which would include a number of WA's finest specialists in surgical management, would advise on the location for the short-stay surgery unit.
The unit, which would open in March next year, would be the first in Australia to link advances in surgical technology to a comprehensive research and evaluation system.
The advisory board would also look at the method of appointing surgeons to the unit, the range of procedures to be carried out and the evaluation of new technologies.
"Advances in surgery techniques have meant that many patients can go home on the same day or within one or two days," the Premier said.
"For instance, the widespread use of endoscopes - fibre optic viewing devices for carrying out surgery through tiny incisions - have reduced hospital stays for abdominal and pelvic surgery.
"Our program will include a comprehensive training scheme so that these techniques and practices can be more widely applied throughout the public hospital system, making more hospital beds available."
Dr Lawrence said the new short-stay unit would carry out more than 4,000 additional surgical procedures when fully operational.
"It will be a centre of excellence for the application of new techniques and will work closely with existing public institutions," Dr Lawrence said.
"It will help ensure that the State's public hospital system remains one of the most envied in the nation by helping increase the quality, safety and efficiency of surgical care."