Fewer Australians waiting longer for elective surgery

Peter Terlato 1 December 2016

doctor surgery waiting list

Median wait times have remained stable over the last 5 years.

Although admissions to public hospital elective surgery waiting lists have risen gradually over the last five years, wait times have remained stable and the proportion of patients waiting longer periods for admittance has decreased, according to a new report.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's (AIHW) Elective Surgery Waiting Times 2015/16: Australian Hospital Statistics reveals admissions to elective surgery waiting lists have risen around 1.7% each year between 2011/12 and 2015/16.

The median waiting time (the time within which 50% of all patients were admitted) in 2015/16 was 37 days. This was only slightly higher than the length recorded in 2014/15 (35 days) and similar to waiting times in 2011/12 and 2013/14 (36 days).

As public hospital emergency departments have become more efficient, elective surgery staff have also improved, reducing the proportion of patients waiting longer than one year to be admitted for their procedure from 2.7% in 2011/12 to just 2% in 2015/16.

However, not all Australians have benefited from these advances, as median waiting times for Indigenous Australians (43 days) was higher than that of other Australians (37 days) and a greater number of Indigenous Australians (2.3%) waited more than a year for elective surgery than other Australians (2%).

The procedure with the shortest median waiting time in 2015/16 was a coronary artery bypass graft (13 days), while individuals having septoplasty, a procedure to correct a deviated septum, suffered the longest median wait times (209 days).

Last month the Australian Medical Association (AMA) claimed Australia had "reached a crisis point" in public hospital funding, reflected by deteriorating bed ratios and unimproved or worsening wait times.

Private health insurers could capitalise on these public system downfalls, considering 1.7 million private health customers are planning to ditch their current policies.

Trying to decide which hospital option is better for you? It's sensible to compare public and private cover, consider wait times and safety and understand how to claim health insurance when visiting.

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