Waiting times for elective surgery in Australia's public hospitals have remained relatively unchanged, according to new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Australian hospital statistics 2012-13: elective surgery waiting times, shows that in 2012-13, half of patients waited up to 36 days for public elective surgery - the same as in 2011-12, but an increase from the median waiting time in 2008-09 of 33 days.
There was an 1.8 per cent increase in admissions, with 673,000 patients being admitted nationally.
Admissions increased in New South Wales, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, but fell in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
In 2012-13, almost one in four patients were admitted for general surgery (surgery on organs of the abdomen) and about one in seven were admitted for orthopaedic surgery (surgery on bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, including knee and hip replacements).
Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the median waiting times for most States and Territories were fairly stable.
For the ACT, the median waiting time decreased from 74 days to 51 days, with most of this improvement over the last two years.
For NSW, the median waiting time increased from 39 days in 2008-09 to 50 days in 2012-13.
Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the surgical specialties with the longest median waiting times were ophthalmology; ear, nose and throat surgery;andorthopaedic surgery (76, 68 and 65 days, respectively in 2012-13).
Cardio-thoracic surgery was consistently the surgical specialty with the shortest median waiting time, but increased from 11 days in 2008-09 to 17 days in 2012-13.
In 2012-13, Septoplasty (correction of a deviated or dislocated septum in the nose) andtotal knee replacement were the procedures with the longest median waiting time (197 days and 196 days respectively) while coronary artery bypass graft was the procedure with the shortest median waiting time (16 days).
The amount of time overall within which 90 per cent of patients were admitted for their awaited procedure rose from 219 days in 2008-09 to 265 days in 2012-13.
AIHW spokesperson, Nigel Harding said the proportion of patients who waited more than a year to be admitted for their surgery remained unchanged at around 3 per cent.
''Information on waiting times by clinical urgency category is not comparable between States and Territories,'' he said.
''All Health Ministers have agreed to improve the consistency of reporting by clinical urgency categories following recent recommendations from the AIHW and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons,'' Mr Harding said.
The report presents information on elective surgery waiting times for public hospitals for the period 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.
To view the report go to this PS News link.
Edition 382, 8 October 2013