Study Predicts Nearly 152,000 Surgeries Cancelled In Malaysia, 11-Month Backlog Clearance

The overall surgery cancellation rate in Malaysia is about 71%; surgeries most subject to cancellation are for benign diseases, cancer, and obstetrics.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — A study has projected a backlog of 151,717 surgeries in Malaysian hospitals during a 12-week period of hospital services’ disruption due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

This requires an 11-month backlog clearance time, with a predicted 20 per cent increase in pre-pandemic surgery numbers, according to a global study by CovidSurg Collaborative that was published in the British Journal of Surgery.

Among participating Malaysian hospitals in the study, the overall surgery cancellation rate was 70.9 per cent. The surgeries most subject to cancellation were those for benign diseases (81.5 per cent), followed by cancer surgery (41 per cent) and obstetrics (26.1 per cent).

Dr April Camilla Roslani, president of the College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (CSAMM), said in a statement that CSAMM has provided regular guidance to its members on tailoring delivery of surgical services, according to individual hospital capacity, the local Covid-19 outbreak, and Movement Control Order (MCO) conditions.

Malaysia imposed a seven-week-long nationwide MCO from March 18 to May 4, during which elective surgeries were cancelled across most public and private hospitals in the Klang Valley. Former Health director-general Dr Ismail Merican said last month that cancer operations should not be considered “elective” surgeries, as cancer is a life-threatening disease.

Dr April said today that CSAMM’s guidance on surgery during the Covid-19 epidemic has “avoided a complete shutdown of elective surgeries nationally, allowing those that need urgent surgery to be treated, thus preventing unnecessary deaths, while minimising disease transmission”.

“Inter-hospital collaborations, between public and private sectors, have been instrumental in mitigating the disruption to surgical services,” she said.

CovidSurg Collaborative’s research projected that 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide were at risk of cancellation or postponement this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, based on a 12-week period of peak disruption to hospital services.

Each additional week of disruption to hospital services will be associated with a further 2.4 million cancellations.

The study led by University of Birmingham researchers, which collected information from surgeons across 359 hospitals and 71 countries, including Malaysia, predicted that 72.3 per cent of planned surgeries worldwide would be cancelled through the peak period of coronavirus-related disruption.

Most cancelled surgeries will be for non-cancer conditions, according to the study. Orthopaedic procedures will be cancelled most frequently, with 6.3 million orthopaedic surgeries cancelled worldwide over a 12-week period.

The research also projected that globally, 2.3 million cancer surgeries will be cancelled or postponed.

“Although essential, cancellations place a heavy burden on patients and society. Patients’ conditions may deteriorate, worsening their quality of life as they wait for rescheduled surgery.

“In some cases, for example cancer, delayed surgeries may lead to a number of unnecessary deaths,” said Aneel Bhangu, consultant surgeon and senior lecturer at the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery at the University of Birmingham.

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