Surgical capacity in hospitals here has fallen by up to 50% as a result of Covid-19, it has been warned.
Mark Regan, chief executive of Kingsbridge Private Hospital, said precautions required to ensure patient safety during the pandemic will seriously hinder efforts to address the waiting list crisis.
It comes after latest official statistics have revealed that over 117,000 patients have been waiting more than a year for their first hospital appointment.
Under current conditions special measures are in place to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 when a patient has a general anaesthetic.
Mr Regan explained: "The need to maximise the NHS theatre throughput has never been greater with the elective surgery waiting lists substantially longer now than pre-Covid times.
"The challenge is that the safety precautions needed around Covid-19 are slowing everything down and, in many cases, it can take 50% longer for each surgical case.
"The principal reason for this is the standstill period of 20 minutes before and after any surgery requiring a general anaesthetic.
"This is due to the tiny droplets of fluid from the lungs potentially being in the air and the opinion that there is a risk these may harbour the virus and thus potentially infect the hospital staff.
"These are commonly referred to as aerosol-generating procedures.
"So, what happens is the anaesthetist goes in and intubates the patient and no one can go into the theatre for 20 minutes, to allow the droplets to settle.
"The same thing happens at the end when the breathing tubes are removed from the patient.
"This obviously has a significant effect on the number of procedures that can be carried out in any theatre list.
"This is particularly the case with procedures that are normally done quite quickly, where you might see the downtime in the theatre being longer than it takes for the operation to be done."
Kingsbridge Private Hospital in south Belfast is one of three private clinics in Northern Ireland that has been carrying out operations on behalf of the NHS during the pandemic.
The Department of Health has a contract with Kingsbridge, the Ulster Independent Clinic in south Belfast and North West Independent Clinic in Ballykelly to treat patients up to the end of this month. The contract was put in place as the health service here braced itself for a massive influx of critically ill patients during the pandemic, with the aim of allowing urgent operations to continue.
Kingsbridge Private Hospital has been carrying out a range of complex cancer operations during the ongoing health crisis, particularly bladder and thoracic surgery.
Mr Regan continued: "We have been operating on all non-Covid patients.
"We have had a number of firsts for the hospital in this time.
"We removed a lung for the first time, which is the first time that has been done in a private hospital in Northern Ireland, and we've now done five or six of these.
"We have also been doing a lot of complex spinal surgery as well."
Mr Regan said that in addition to carrying out more complex surgeries, they have also developed more innovative techniques to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19.
They are increasingly carrying out operations that would traditionally be done under a general anaesthetic instead under a spinal anaesthetic. This includes hip and knee replacements.
"It means that we don't have to wait before and after the operation because there is no aerosol-generating procedure," explained Mr Regan.
"It won't work in all cases, you can't do it too high up because it would start to affect other organs, but there's no reason why this can't become the norm as we look to the future."