AUSTRALIA’S top doctors say the country’s hospitals are “going backwards” as more patients wait longer for elective surgery and emergency department care.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data released on Wednesday shows more people being added to surgery wait lists than receiving surgery.
More also came through the doors of the country’s emergency departments in 2018-19 but only 71 per cent were seen on time.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said Australia was once again seeing its public hospitals go backwards.
He said the entire health system, including the private sector, needed urgent reform.
“Yet our governments continue to do the same thing to help our public hospitals: absolutely nothing,” Dr Bartone said.
“We need leadership. We need action. We need funding. And we need it now.”
Dr Bartone pointed to data showing it took four hours to treat every three in 10 emergency department patients.
The institute’s Dr Adrian Webster says three-quarters of Australians in the second-most urgent category – ’emergency’ – were seen within the required 10 minutes.
When it comes to surgeries, he said the national wait list was growing below the five year average but so too was the number of people receiving surgery.
“These data suggest that, over time, growth in the number of people receiving elective surgery in public hospitals is not keeping up with demand for elective surgery,” Dr Webster said
For elective surgeries, NSW was again the best state, seeing 97 per cent of patients within the recommended time. Tasmania was worst, seeing only 60 per cent.
The median wait time for surgeries was 40 days but the median wait time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was 50 days.
The ACT was the worst performer when it came to emergency department wait times, with less than half – 46 per cent – of patients being seen on time.
NSW was the best performer, with 78 per cent of people attending emergency departments getting seen on time.
Half of Australian emergency care patients spent six minutes waiting in 2018-19, with non-urgent patients waiting 24 minutes but semi-urgent patients waiting 29 minutes.
Everyone under the resuscitation category, the most urgent out of five triage categories, was seen on time.
Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen said the coalition was trying to determine Australians’ access to healthcare based on their credit card.
“(Health Minister) Greg Hunt and the coalition need to address this health care crisis unfolding on their watch,” he said.