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Surgical Scheduling

Hunter New England Area Health Service

Hunter New England Area Health Service is a large governmental health services organization in New South Wales, Australia. Serving approximately 850,000 people, the HNEAHS includes 3 teriary hospitals, 4 rural referral hospitals, 12 district hospitals and 10 community hospitals. NovaSim, working together with PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia, developed a comprehensive simulation model to help manage surgical block management and overall waitlist management for two of the largest facilities in the region. Used to solve a variety of what-if questions when it was first developed, the model remains in consistent use several years later as an ongoing wait list management tool. 

Project Goals

  • Support the creation of a plan for managing the wait list to meet health service goals and governmental targets
  • Evaluate changes to theatre block schedules
  • Determine when and how to introduce new scheduling blocks
  • Evaluate alternative patient-to-block assignment algorithms
  • Evaluate alternate block filling algorithms (sequence of patients within a block)
  • Determine the impact of changes to the roster of surgeons
  • Evaluate shifting specialties or procedures to alternate surgical facilities
  • Model a dedicated orthopedic facility
  • Examine the impact of shifting all cataract surgeries to a regional hospital instead of dedicating the tertiary referral hospital's surgical resources


System Elements

  • 9 operating theatres at John Hunter Hospital and 5 at the Royal New Castle
  • More than 90 surgeons
  • 30 surgical subspecialties
  • Approximately 18,000 surgeries annually
  • 245 "intended procedure" codes
  • Wait list elective surgeries, organized into 4 categories
    • Within 30 days
    • Within 90 days
    • Within 365 days
    • Not Ready for Care
  • Acute surgeries, grouped into 6 urgency categories
    • Immediate
    • less than 1 hour
    • less than 2 hours
    • less than 6 hours
    • less than 24 hours
    • More than 24 hours
  • Procedure times organized by IPC, Surgeon, and category

    SIMUL8 Window with the Patients (Demand) on left and Surgical Blocks (Capacity) on right