The Impending Bowel Cancer Crisis

Peter Spryszynski - Country Manager, Q-bital Healthcare Solutions

The pandemic has impacted healthcare systems immensely.  The obvious effects of COVID-19 patients flooding wards is seen daily in the media. There is acknowledgement of what has been termed the ‘silent pandemic’ which refers to the huge mental health toll that public health measures have had on the community. There is a third crisis simultaneously brewing which has enormous repercussions for Australians: deferred non-essential or elective surgery.

As a measure of load balancing and in an attempt to further contain COVID spread, many jurisdictions around Australia have suspended elective surgery at some point during since March 2020.  Many states continue to operate at reduced volumes. A recent Lancet study showed that, in the UK, delays in diagnoses for bowel cancers since the onset of COVID-19 is estimated to result in a 15.3-16.6 per cent increase in deaths.1 A recent Cancer Australia study showed that between March and April 2020 alone, the number of colonoscopies utilised to diagnose bowel cancers fell by 55 per cent.2 This is just one disease state among many in this elective category.  Most other deferred interventions show similar effects: patients’ disease states becoming more advanced than were they to be treated at the original scheduled time, thus leading to requirement for more complex interventions, treatments, and longer recoveries.  This further compounds the burden on the health system with more surgical time, more ward recovery time taken per patient.

The cycle can be disrupted when hospitals undertake measures to temporarily expand capacity. On some occasions public hospitals can outsource surplus services to the private system. This works on occasion as arrangements can be fraught with commercial and other logistical complications beyond the scope of this short piece.  The other solution that has emerged as an agile and novel way to respond to the surge in demand and tackle the pent-up backlogs is to use temporary hospital facilities. This is where Q-bital Healthcare Solutions has been shown to assist.  Advanced facilities like operating theatres, recovery wards, sterilisation solutions can be hired for terms as long or as short as the community requires, enabling hospitals to deliver their services to a larger group, to bring down waitlists and to improve people’s lives.

For a copy of our latest white paper, jointly written with Bowel Cancer Australia entitled, The Impending Bowel Cancer Crisis, please contact me on

  • Maringe C., Spicer J., Morris M., Purushotham A., Nolte E., Sullivan R., Rachet B., Aggarwal A., “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer deaths due to delays in diagnosis in England, UK: a national, population-based, modelling study”, Lancet Oncology, 2021, Jan, 22(1):e5.

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