Elective surgery wait times balloon to record high across Australia, data shows | Health #Elective #surgery #wait #times #balloon #record #high #Australia #data #shows #Health

Elective surgery wait times are at their highest level on record, while nearly one in two patients are spending more than the recommended time in emergency departments, new data shows.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfareon Wednesday released figures on public hospital performance from July 2022 to June 2023 that the Australian Medical Association said “paints a grim picture” of hospitals struggling more than ever.

Nearly one in 10 patients (9.6%) were waiting longer than a year to be admitted for elective surgery, up from 2.1% before the pandemic (2018­–19).

Elective surgery refers to operations that are medically necessary and may be required urgently but are booked in advance as a result of a clinical assessment rather than an emergency presentation.

Half of all patients admitted from a public elective surgery waiting list were admitted for their procedure within 49 days, up from 40 the previous year and similar to 48 days in 2020–21.

The AIHW spokesperson Clara Jellie said the elective surgery wait times were the “highest numbers we’ve ever seen in the data in the 20 years that we’ve been collating data on this topic”.

However, Jellie said because of the way the data is collated, with wait times only counted when the surgery occurs, “there’s a bit of an irony in our waiting time statistics that when the number of surgeries goes up, often the waiting times go up”.

“That’s simply because all of the surgeries that would have happened in the 2021-22 period that got delayed have now been shifted into this latest reporting period. It really reflects the fact there were delays in the previous reporting period,” she said.

The data showed the number of patients undergoing elective surgery increased by 18% in 2022–23, when there were 855,528 patients on the surgery waiting list compared with 787,715 the year prior.

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Prof Steve Robson, said the number of people waiting more than a year for hip and knee replacement surgery has quadrupled since 2018–19.

“It’s important to remember that behind each number are real people whose lives are being severely impacted by serious health conditions that require surgery,” he said.

“We are seeing more and more Australians die waiting for these essential surgeries, with more than 12,000 deaths in 2022–23, up from 9,000 the year before. While these deaths may not have been because of delayed surgery, it is an alarming increase.”

The New South Wales Bureau of Health Information also released data on elective surgeries in the state’s public hospitals from July to September 2023, compared with the same quarter a year earlier. It showed the number of elective surgeries being performed was up by 10.4%, close to pre-pandemic levels, with 82.6% of all elective surgeries performed on time, which represented an increase of more than 7%.

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The number of patients on the waiting list who had waited longer than is clinically recommended fell by 61.2%, according to the BHI.

While the AIHW collects data from public hospitals, Jellie noted most elective surgeries are performed in private hospitals, which do not provide data on wait times.

The AIHW also provided new data on emergency department performance, which showed overall, 65% of patients were seen on time for their triage category, a decrease on the 67% the previous year.

All those requiring immediate care for resuscitation were seen on time, 64% of those requiring care within 10 minutes for emergency, 58% for urgent, 68% for semi-urgent and 88% for non-urgent.

Patients are supposed to be either admitted to hospital or discharged within four hours, but only 56% of presentations were completed in the recommended time.

About 90% of visits were completed within 10 hours and 32 minutes, an increase of three hours since 2018-19, when 90% of visits were completed within seven hours and 29 minutes.

The story was corrected on 6 December 2023, from an earlier version which incorrectly attributed the AIHW data to the AMA.

#Elective #surgery #wait #times #balloon #record #high #Australia #data #shows #Health

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