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ALL elective surgery other than the most urgent procedures is being put on hold nationwide to free up capacity in hospitals dealing with coronavirus.

State and federal leaders agreed to indefinitely suspend all category three and most category two surgeries from midnight on Wednesday night.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the move would also help free up resources needed by healthcare staff.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP/MICK TSIKASPrime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP/MICK TSIKAS

“This will allow the preservation of resources like personal protective equipment and health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak,’’ he said.

Category one and two surgeries are classified as urgent and semi-urgent respectively, while category three surgeries are recommended to take place inside a year.

The suspension of many surgeries, which will apply to both public and private hospitals, will impact on already significant waiting lists in Tasmania.

The most recent available figures showed there were 10,528 patients on the waiting list for elective surgery in the state. That figure could be higher since it is only current to September last year.

One of those Tasmanians needing elective surgery is Tracey Dance, who has been on the waiting list as a category two patient for about 730 days. Ms Dance, 47, needs an operation to remedy a respiratory condition that, on the worst days, leaves her gasping for air.

Tracey Dance has been on the elective surgery waiting list as a category two patient for more than 700 days. Picture: RICHARD JUPETracey Dance has been on the elective surgery waiting list as a category two patient for more than 700 days. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

The condition leaves her with constant headaches and breathing difficulties and affects many aspects of her life including work, sleep and being unable to exercise.

Ms Dance, who lives alone in her Campania home, said she was scared about the consequences of her escalating symptoms if she cannot receive the surgery.

“I fear being alone and not being able to breathe, not being able to get an ambulance and not making it,’’ she said.

“I’ve rang mum and dad before [in the night] and they’ve said to ring an ambulance.

“I haven’t at the times I probably needed to because I’m thinking there’s somebody out there who’s probably having a heart attack that needs the ambulance more than I do.

“But to be honest, the way it’s getting now, it’s pretty scary. It’s frightening stuff.”

Tasmanian Health Minister Sarah Courtney said decisions on the category of patients would remain at the discretion of medical professionals.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney. Picture: RICHARD JUPEHealth Minister Sarah Courtney. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

“These are the difficult decisions we are having to make as we continue to prepare our hospitals around Tasmania for the fight against coronavirus and the future impacts it may have on our EDs,’’ she said.

Private health provider Healthscope said the decision would free up supplies of medical equipment and hospital beds that may be required to treat future coronavirus patients.

Healthscope said it would communicate directly with affected patients.

The national decision to suspend less urgent surgeries was welcomed by the Australian Society of Anaesthetists. “The only way Australian hospitals can effectively prepare for an influx of patients is if we have the time to devote resources to this preparation,” president Suzi Nou said.