‘Patients will suffer’: Specialists criticise national public holiday to mourn the Queen

By Geir O'Rourke

12 Sep 2022

Specialists have criticised the decision to hold a public holiday to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, with some warning the day off will exacerbate overbooked waitlists for elective surgery and other care.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday announced the one-off holiday for next Thursday, 22 September, coinciding with a memorial service for the Queen.

“It will be a one-off national public holiday to allow people to pay their respects for the passing of Queen Elizabeth,” Mr Albanese said.

“I spoke to all premiers and chief ministers yesterday and I’m writing to them formally this morning, they will have received their letters by now. They have all agreed that it’s appropriate that it be a one-off national public holiday.”

The day off will mean Victorians enjoy a four-day weekend, as the Friday before the AFL grand final is also a public holiday. Western Australia has another public holiday the following Monday.

But the decision has been condemned on social media, with one high-profile doctor saying he would need to reschedule more than 60 patients booked in to attend his cancer clinic on the day.

Dr Eric Levi, an otolaryngologist in Melbourne, said the result was likely to be cancellation of all non-emergency surgeries in public hospitals and major staffing headaches across the system.

“Patients booked for clinics and theatres will be affected by this,” Dr Levi said on Twitter.

“Our clinics and operating theatres are all already severely overbooked. Cancelling, postponing, reshuffling isn’t easy in an overloaded system.”

The lack of lead-in time – just 11 days – was another issue and would create administrative nightmare in private practices, said respiratory physician Dr David Joffe.

Based in Sydney, he said he was planning to close his private practice for the day, adding he would have been unable to cover his costs if required to pay public-holiday penalty rates.

AMA president Professor Steve Robson was also among those unhappy with the move.

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