THE gastric sleeve surgery cost Kathleen Billingham $8,500 including a year's membership of a private health fund, but the "life-changing" treatment was worth it, she said.
"I bawled my eyes out last week when I got my surgery date. It's a life-changing thing for me. I'm morbidly obese so I've packed my bags, my husband's taken holiday leave," she said.
"I'm devastated. It's a mind-f*** to get your head around what's going to happen to you, your eating intake and how your life's going to change and the next minute it's just boom. Your sort of life depends on it, I've got diabetes, I've got a few health problems that this surgery's going to help with and now I'm sort of screwed."
On Wednesday night, she got a generic email: the surgery was off, with no new date scheduled.
The NSW government announced this week that staff from many private hospitals across Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong, as well as some regional locations, are being deployed to assist the NSW Government's response to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
NSW Health ordered 20 private hospitals to postpone non-urgent elective surgery from Monday August 23 to free up health resources.
None of the hospitals are in the Tamworth area in the state's north east, but the list of 20 hospitals includes Mrs Billingham's Prince of Wales Private Hospital.
She paid the enormous bill for the surgery just two days earlier, and has been left out-of-pocket for accommodation and other expenses as well.
"Had I known like 24 hours [earlier], I could have kept my money and helped my daughter get a car. Now I can't do any of that because they've got my money and they're not going to refund me or anything like that," she said.
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Tamara Private Hospital CEO Patricia Thornberry confirmed that the Tamworth hospital had not been ordered to free up staff.
"It is business as usual for our health care workers and patients with the only caveat being that our daily volume of elective surgery is not allowed to increase," she said.
A NSW Health spokeswoman said private hospital staff will help support the "large-scale vaccination effort currently underway and support workforce demands in the NSW public health system".
"All emergency surgery and urgent elective surgery will continue to be performed during this challenging period. People who require emergency surgery will still have access to it," she said.
"These private hospitals have been conducting additional elective surgery on behalf of the public health system for patients who had their non-urgent elective surgery postponed in 2020, following a National Cabinet decision."
For Mrs Billingham, her entire life is now on hold.
She was a cleaner but can't do the job any more because of her weight.
"All the messages said, the email from the doctors, that it's been postponed," she said.
"Until further notice was the wording. I've got a gut feeling it could be next year."