n South African Medical Journal - Private theatre utilisation in South Africa : a case study : forum - health and finance

Volume 103, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



A large private operating theatre complex was investigated to address the lack of published South African benchmarks for utilisation. All major theatres were staffed during normal working hours (07h00 - 19h00), emergency cases being provided for on an basis through spare capacity.

An extensive billing database, amounting to 28 991 records of procedures performed during normal working hours and spanning the period October 2007 - February 2010, was data-mined using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) scripts. Theatre utilisation was analysed per day, per theatre.
The results showed an average utilisation of 43% with significant variation in day-to-day operations. If the very underutilised minor theatre was excluded from the analysis, overall utilisation rose to 48%. Individual theatre utilisation ranged from 14% to 61%. An analysis of change in utilisation with time during a day showed that peak utilisation of 71% was achieved at 09h30 (90 minutes after lists start). Utilisation dropped to 25% at the end of the working day and was sustained for some time after hours.
The 48% utilisation observed was significantly lower than the global benchmark of between 70% and 80%.

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