The Australian Medical Association says Australia’s “hidden waiting list” is a scandal which adds months and sometimes years to the time patients wait for essential surgery.
AMA President Steve Robson and AMA’s emergency medicine representative Dr Sarah Whitelaw fronted the media in Melbourne last Friday to draw attention to the unreported time it takes patients to see a specialist in public hospitals.
Professor Robson said the delay between seeing a GP, being referred, and actually getting an appointment is blowing out to years for many conditions.
“You may think it’s not so important but if you’re waiting to see an eye specialist and you can’t see, it often means you can’t work or drive. If you have chronic pain from a condition like endometriosis, it affects your relationships and your ability to work,” he said to the media in Melbourne.
“If you have knee arthritis or injuries, then you can’t work because you can’t get an appointment to see an orthopaedic surgeon and this has a massive implication on the life of the economy.
“At the moment, data and information about the number of patients who are waiting and how long they’re waiting is incredibly hard to come by.
“States and territories are guarding this information and not releasing it. But if we look around the country, there’s a total mish-mash of information.
“The thing that we do know is that in a state like Queensland for example, there is something like a quarter of a million patients waiting for appointments at the hospital outpatient departments.”
Dr Sarah Whitelaw said there should be a uniform national standard of what states should collect, the resources to collect that data and a way to publish the data so that it’s easily interpretable and can be used to form solutions.
“It’s really difficult at the moment to know what states are collecting and what they’re publishing because the way that they’re collecting data is often really difficult to compare between them.
“So, it’s hindering us at the moment from developing solutions and sharing knowledge about what does work and what does prevent patients from getting sicker while they’re waiting for their elective surgery or their specialist outpatient treatment. And it stops us from developing solutions about how to increase that access and make those times shorter.”