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Elective surgery waiting list not as good as Government claims

09 October, 2006

AMA Victoria President Dr Mark Yates said the State Government’s latest elective surgery waiting list figures were not as healthy as the State Government had indicated.

Dr Yates said the lack of monitoring of outpatients, increases in the wait for treatment for semi-urgent patients and changes to how hospitals go on ambulance by-pass were all of concern.

“The government may claim these figures indicate improvement in the wait for elective surgery, but until the government makes a commitment to properly monitor and report waiting times to access outpatient services, which people need to access to be assessed for the elective surgery list, we will not know the true wait for elective surgery.

“Thousands of people are suffering, awaiting surgery on this hidden waiting list. W know from our members that people with often debilitating conditions are waiting more than a year just to get assessed to be put on the elective surgery waiting list,” Dr Yates said.

In addition, Dr Yates said it was also concerning the government targeted long waiting patients in its blitz, leaving people with more serious and urgent cases to wait longer to receive treatment.

“Despite the government’s claims of success, the number of category two semi-urgent patients not being seen within the target timeframe has increased by more than 10 per cent since 1999, which includes a three per cent increase in this report period, compared to the previous six months.”

In addition, the median waiting period for semi-urgent category two patients increased to 48 days, more than a third more than in 1999/2000, Dr Yates said.

“This is in the context of Victoria having the highest proportion of category two patients and the lowest proportion of category one (urgent) patients in Australia, which in itself is a cause for concern.”

While the number of times hospitals went on ambulance by-pass had decreased, Dr Yates said changes as to who could put a hospital on by-pass in March, from senior medical emergency department staff to senior staff, may have impacted on this decrease.

“We know of cases from senior medical staff who have been unable to put a hospital on by-pass, despite it being necessary, because they now no longer have the authority to do so.

“While a rosy picture is being painted, there is still considerable work and investment needed in elective surgery to ensure Victorians received timely and appropriate treatment,” Dr Yates said.