Ministers hope the ten centres across Scotland will help clear the huge backlog of procedures – such as hip and knee replacements – that were postponed or cancelled during the pandemic.
But Lewis Morrison, chair of BMA Scotland, warned staffing the centres with health workers from other parts of the NHS risked causing the system to collapse in future.
He told The Scotsman: “It is crucial in taking forward these plans that staffing of the centres is carefully considered. They must not be allowed to take staff from elsewhere in the system if this could potentially undermine already fragile services.
“We urgently need a comprehensive long-term staffing plan for the whole of the NHS that takes into account elective centres.”
‘Mobile operating theatres’
Dr Morrison said dealing with pent-up demand would only be possible “if it goes hand in hand with recovery for staff, many of whom will have faced the most difficult time of their careers”.
During the election campaign, the First Minister pledged to expand the number of centres performing diagnostic work and elective surgery across Scotland, including a renewed Edinburgh Eye Pavilion, and treatment centres in Ayrshire and Cumbernauld.
Ms Sturgeon promised that "mobile operating theatre units" would be deployed at a number of NHS sites while the elective centres were set up.
Professor Michael Griffin OBE, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, welcomed the new sites, but said more were needed across Scotland.
‘Elective surgery came to a complete halt’
"The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has been campaigning for elective surgical hubs and diagnostic centres for some years, therefore we very much support the introduction of specialist surgical hubs in Scotland,” he said.
“If we had in place a model in which elective and emergency services were separate before the pandemic, we would not have been in the unfortunate situation where elective surgery came to an almost complete halt in the way it did during the first wave.”
Dr Griffin said the introduction of elective centres should help prevent NHS Scotland from being overwhelmed in future.
"There is no quick fix to the remobilisation of the health service, so it's important that this remains a top priority for the foreseeable future as the NHS will continue to face many challenges for years to come,” he said.
It comes as the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in England proposed similar specialist surgical hubs to tackle a "colossal backlog" of non-urgent procedures south of the border.
The body said such hubs should be developed to allow planned surgery to take place in every region of the country should there be a fresh wave of Covid-19, or other severe pressures caused by flu.
The RCS has also called on the UK Government to commit to spending an extra £1 billion on surgery annually for the next five years, as part of 12 recommendations which are "long and short-term measures designed to improve the future sustainability of surgical services".
The Scottish Government have been approached for comment.