Hospitals waiting times worsen but patients still happy with specialists

4 Feb 2019

Latest performance figures for public hospitals show access problems are increasing for admitted services, but patients are still satisfied with the way they are treated by doctors.

The 2019 Report on Government Services into public hospitals released by the Australian Productivity Commission shows that overall elective surgery waiting times were 40 days (50th percentile) in 2017-18, up from 37 days in 2013-14.

The report also showed that elective surgery waiting list sizes grew by 118,072 in the last year, with some states and territories having high rates of patients facing extended waits beyond the clinically desirable time (Tasmania 27% and SA 13%, compared to 10% in Victoria, 5% in Queensland and 3% in NSW).

In terms of safety, public hospitals performance was mixed, with 6.6% of hospitalisations having an adverse event incident reported.

Unplanned hospital readmission rates were highest for procedures such as tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (40/1000 separations) hysterectomy (33/1000) and knee replacement, prostatectomy and appendectomy (23/1000).

Doctor-patient relationships were reported as favourable by most patients, with more than 90% believing specialists listened carefully to them and showed them respect, and 88% believing that doctors spent enough time with them.

“This report highlights the impact of the Medicare rebate freeze, and reduced funding for public hospitals and public dental,” said Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

“There are more people waiting longer for services and more people avoiding care because of costs,” she added.

“And that’s only part of the picture as there is no information in this report about the cost of specialist services and out-of-pocket payments; or about the cost and value of private health insurance despite the significant public funding provided to subsidise this private market.”

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