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Elective surgery waiting times increasing, new figures show

hospital car park
Emergency admissions and elective surgery waiting times have gone up, according to latest data. Photo: Getty
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The wait time for elective surgery continues to climb, with three regions falling behind the national average, new Australian figures show.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report released on Friday, approximately 8 per cent of people in the ACT waited more than a year for elective surgery, compared to the national average of 2 per cent in 2017-18.

Meanwhile, around 3 per cent of South Australians, and 3.3 per cent of Tasmanians waited more than 365 days for surgery.

“Patients who wait more than a year for their surgery can be regarded as not having their surgery ‘on time’,” the AIHW wrote.

On average and across Australia, the median wait for surgery was 40 days – except in NSW where the average delay was 55 days; in the ACT with 54 days; and South Australia and Tasmania with 42 days.

Between 2013 and 2018, waiting times increased in Queensland (from 28 to 40 days) and Western Australia (from 29 to 39 days). While waiting times in Victoria and Northern Territory dropped to below 30 days, during the same period.

Most common procedures revealed

Cataract surgery was the most common elective procedure in 2017–18. General surgery was the most common surgical specialty, followed by orthopaedic surgery.

Between 2013 and 2018, coronary artery bypass grafts had the shortest waiting time for an individual surgery type, with a median wait of 17 days; while septoplasty for a deviated nasal septum had the longest wait at 248 days.

In 2017–18, breast lump removals and biopsies had the shortest median waiting time, ranging from 13 days in Victoria to 23 days in the Northern Territory.

surgeon performing cataract operation
There were more than 70,000 cataract surgeries in Australia in 2017-18. Photo: Getty

Hospital admissions on the rise

The number of people presenting to hospital emergency departments has also increased by 11 per cent between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

In 2017–18, more than 8 million patients presented to Australian public hospital EDs – an average of 22,000 patients per day, and 3.4 per cent higher than the previous year.

“This was greater than the average growth in population over the same period,” the AIHW wrote.

Approximately three-quarters of patients received care ‘on time’, which was within 10 minutes for those requiring immediate care.

On average, most other patients could expect to wait up to 1 hour and 39 minutes, while half of the patients were seen within 19 minutes.

Accidents and injuries accounted for about one in four presentations, including for fractures, burns, toxic effects of medicinal and non-medicinal substances, and other complications.

Patients under four years and above 65 accounted for most of the emergency presentations last year.