SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
versão On-line ISSN 2078-5135
versão impressa ISSN 0256-9574
INTRODUCTION: 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 ad hoc basis through spare capacity. METHODS: 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. RESULTS: 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. CONCLUSION: The 48% utilisation observed was significantly lower than the global benchmark of between 70% and 80%.