Life Wellbeing Elective surgery waiting lists continue to grow as hospitals struggle to keep up with demand

Elective surgery waiting lists continue to grow as hospitals struggle to keep up with demand

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Victoria will recruit up to 1000 extra workers to support its struggling health system. Photo: ABC
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Queensland pensioner Gillian Attewell carries a magnifying glass wherever she goes, just so she can see.

The 77-year-old waited for three years to have a cataract removed from her left eye, and is still waiting for surgery on the right.

“It is really hard to go through life not being able to do what you like to do – I love to read, which is really difficult to do at the moment,” she said.

“It’s just very hard.”

Ms Attewell is one of thousands of people on the public hospital elective surgery waiting list, a list that new figures show is continuing to grow.

About 874,000 patients were added to the public hospital elective surgery waiting list in 2017-18, an increase of 70,000 people since 2013.

Only 871,000 patients were removed from the list last year, showing hospitals are struggling to keep up with demand for surgery.

The figures in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report have also revealed it took, on average, 268 days for 90 per cent of patients to undergo surgery in the last financial year, a 10-day increase on the previous year.

Just half of all patients were operated on within 40 days, up from a 36-day wait in 2013-14.

Indigenous Australians waited longer, on average, than non-Indigenous people for surgery, with half seen within 48 days.

Where you live determines how long you wait

In NSW, patients wait the longest – with half being seen within 55 days.

The ACT comes a close second, with 50 per cent of elective surgery patients being treated in 54 days.

Northern Territory residents had the shortest wait, with half of all patients treated in 23 days.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Greg Hunt said states and territories were responsible for providing elective and emergency department services.

She said the government was calling on the states and territories to provide more funding to the services, and improve wait times.

“State and territory contribution to public hospitals grew by only 0.1 per cent in 2016-17 compared to the growth in Commonwealth funding of 6.2 per cent,” she said.

“The Commonwealth Government provides significant funding to assist the states to provide these vital services.”

Eye surgery waiting list grows

It took almost a year, 354 days, for 90 per cent of patients to be treated.

The second-longest wait was for eye surgery, with 90 per cent of those patients seen within 329 days.

The shortest wait was for heart surgery, with half of those patients seen in just under three weeks.

Queensland pensioner Gillian Attewell
Queensland pensioner Gillian Attewell is on the elective surgery waiting list for eye surgery to remove a cataract. Photo: ABC

For Ms Attewell, the delay in surgery has seen her become increasingly housebound.

She said as her sight rapidly deteriorates, so too does her quality of life.

“It’s been very frustrating, incredibly frustrating,” Ms Attewell said.

“If I lost my hearing that wouldn’t worry me. But my eyesight –I would really suffer.”

Emergency department wait times on the rise

Last year, more than 8 million patients presented to Australian public hospital emergency departments, according to a separate report from the AIHW.

On average, there were 22,000 patients a day presenting at emergency departments, up about 3.5 per cent on the previous year.

Of those patients, only 72 per cent were seen within clinically recommended timeframes, down from 75 per cent in 2013.

In NSW, 80 per cent of patients were seen on time.

But in the ACT, less than half of all patients were treated within clinically recommended timeframes.

While all resuscitation patients were seen immediately, only 76 per cent of so-called “emergency” patients were seen within the recommended timeframe of 10 minutes.

– ABC News

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