Patients benefit from coordinated management of operating theatre facilities

An initiative to make better use of its operating theatre (OT) facilities is benefiting patients through more effective resource allocation and increased efficiency among staff. A dedicated Pilot OT office was established in Hong Kong West Cluster (HKWC) last year to coordinate OT services among HKWC hospitals with the goal of increasing OT throughput.

“Every week, we draw up a schedule that shows the arrangements for each of the 20 OTs at Queen Mary Hospital (QMH),” explains Dr Hung Kwan-ngai, Cluster Coordinator of the office and leader of this pilot programme. “We reserve OTs for emergency cases and we have hired 16 additional nurses to cope with any abrupt or unforeseen increase in demand for OT services.”

Resulting benefits include the ability to arrange for certain operations to take place at QMH when other hospitals are undergoing renovation – as was recently the case at Grantham Hospital and Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital at Sandy Bay, Dr Hung says. To provide patients with more timely treatment, simple operations such as varicose vein surgery can then be conducted at smaller-scale hospitals.

Positive effects of the programme include a great reduction in the number of elective surgery cancellations, which were periodically bumped from the schedule by emergency liver transplant cases at QMH. The cancellation rate has decreased from 24 four-hour sessions in 2011 to just eight sessions last year, and is currently at zero for the year to date.

Another improvement has been the significant increase in on-time patient arrivals at the OT – from 31% in 2011 to 80% in 2013. “This is very important. If the patient arrives late at the OT, it doesn’t just waste precious surgery time – it affects the morale of the surgery team who all feel they could be making use of that time to serve other patients,” Dr Hung explains.

The HA Committee on Pilot OT Office will use the data and experience gained from the pilot programme at HKWC to develop management tools for improving OT services and will implement the tools in other clusters.

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