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Last-minute cancellations affect 1 in 12 surgeries at university hospitals: study

University hospitals have notoriously long surgical wait times. Waiting periods at Korea’s five biggest general hospitals -- Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul Asan Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital and Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital -- average around two to three months.

Nevertheless, a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health shows that one in 12 patients cancels an operation on the scheduled date of surgery.

A research team at the hospital management department at the Yonsei University School of Public Health analyzed 60,330 emergency and general surgery plans from January 2007 to December 2016 at a large medical center in Ilsan, a district north of Seoul in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

Of the 60,330 scheduled operations, 4,834 were canceled on the day that surgery was to take place, which translates to an annual on-the-day cancellation rate of about 8 percent on average. While the patients were responsible for 93.2 percent of the cancellations, the hospital canceled 329 surgeries, or 6.8 percent.

Among the patient-canceled surgeries, 32.4 percent stemmed from a patient’s refusal and 19.7 percent from other personal reasons. This means that about half the patients canceled planned operations for nonclinical reasons. Of the cancellations by the hospital, 3.3 percent, or 161 cases, were the result of incomplete medical evaluations and 1.3 percent, or 65, stemmed from surgeon unavailability.

The study concludes that while reasons for canceling surgery at the last minute vary, cancellations by hospitals are preventable through “efficient management of operating rooms.” It also added that the last-minute cancellation of medical treatment takes a toll on patients psychologically and financially. Furthermore, canceled operations lead to a reduction in the number of patients who could otherwise be admitted.

By Kim Arin (