A key target for 240,000 Victorians to go under the knife for elective surgery each year is no more, with the state government quietly moving the goal-posts.

In 2022, the Andrews Labor government boldly set itself a target to carry out 240,000 elective surgeries a year by 2024, as part of a $1.5 billion COVID catch-up plan.

But buried within Tuesday’s budget papers, the state government lowered the target to 200,000 for 2024/25 after failing to reach it in 2023/24.

It expects to fall 33,000 short of the 240,000 goal this financial year, with the budget blaming the result on continued demand pressures on health services post-pandemic.

In November, Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the government would not stop until it hit the ambitious target as she couldn’t accept anything less on behalf of Victorians.

“We’re going to hit it,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“We will come very close … and if we don’t achieve that target we’ll keep working until we do.”

Six months later, Ms Thomas said the government had recalibrated the target due to staff shortages within the health system.

“We’re still not able to access the workforce that we need,” she told reporters on Sunday.

“We’re in a global war for talent when it comes to getting healthcare workers.”

Victoria’s elective surgery waitlist peaked at almost 90,000 at the end of the March quarter in 2022 following several lockdown-related stoppages.

By the end of March 2024, it had been pegged back to just over 62,000.

The minister said the wait list for elective surgery, formally known as planned surgery, had decreased 30 per cent since its peak during the COVID-19 pandemic and theatres remained busy.

“The number of surgeries that will be performed in this financial year far outweigh any that have ever been done before when we look at planned surgery, when we look at emergency surgery,” Ms Thomas said.

“What we’ve seen, of course, is some conditions can be resolved with endoscopy treatment alone.”

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the government had broken a promise, leaving tens of thousands of Victorians to languish in pain waiting for vital surgery.

“Whether it’s elective surgery, building hospitals like at Arden Street or the 10 community hospitals that they promised two elections ago, this government is full of broken promises and as a result it’s Victorians who are paying the price,” she said.

Source: AAP