Elective surgery wait times longest on record

Wait times for elective surgery at public hospitals have blown out to the longest on record.

Wait times for elective surgery at public hospitals have blown out to the longest on record. Photo: AAP

Wait times for elective surgery at public hospitals have blown out to the longest on record, prompting calls for an overhaul by Australia’s peak medical body.

The latest Public Hospital Report Card, released on Friday by the Australian Medical Association, shows the median wait time for elective surgeries was 49 days in 2022/23.

It is up nine days on the wait in 2021/22, and nearly double the median of 27 days in 2001/02.

The nine-day increase in the past two years is the largest jump on record, matched only by the period directly affected by Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic.

AMA president Steve Robson said, ahead of a meeting of health ministers on Friday, urgent action was needed to address the lengthening waiting time for elective surgery.

“Australians are now waiting almost twice as long on average for planned surgery than they were 20 years ago, which is unacceptable,” he said.

“Last year, we welcomed the federal government’s announcement of a significant public funding boost to the hospital funding agreement and the decision to replace the 6.5 per cent funding growth cap with a more generous approach.

“The new agreement will still need more investment and agreement by all health ministers. It also doesn’t come into effect until 2025. Urgent action is needed now.”

The association’s report also found the proportion of patients receiving category two planned surgeries – which includes procedures such as heart valve replacements and fracture surgeries – had fallen to their lowest levels.

“These surgeries are essential and urgent, they are not elective or cosmetic, and every day of waiting can bring serious pain and increased risks to patients,” Robson said.

The report also showed further bad news for emergency patients being seen on time.

Nationally, only 56 per cent of patients had their visit to the emergency room completed within four hours, the lowest level since 2011.

Australia’s growing population has also meant the number of beds available for patients has also fallen.

While 1220 new public hospital beds became available between 2017/18 and 2021/22, the population grew by one million people in the same time period.

Figures showed there were just 11.6 new beds for every 10,000 new Australians since 2017/18, compared to the capacity of 25.3 new beds for every 10,000 just five years ago.


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.