ACT News


Waiting time for elective surgery slows

There are 220 Canberrans who have been waiting more than 12 months for elective surgery in the city's hospitals, according to the ACT Auditor-General.

But the auditor's latest snapshot of the slow progress on elective surgery waiting list shows that it has taken seven years to bring that number down from the all-time high of more than 1265.

The Canberra Liberals say they are not happy, saying on Thursday that the territory's record on elective surgery was ''catastrophic''.

Auditor-General Maxine Cooper has been monitoring the progress of the Health Directorate's implementation of the recommendations of her January 2011 report on the territory's surgical waiting list crisis. Her third update was published on Thursday.

The report notes that progress is being made in the integration of systems between government-owned Canberra Hospital and the privately owned but publicly funded Calvary Hospital.

''The number of people who have had elective surgery at ACT public hospitals over 2011-2012 was 11,261 which is 261 above the 11,000 target,'' the report notes. ''The result of 11,261 is 1 per cent below the 11,336 reported for the same period in 2010-2011.''


Improvements have been made to the median waiting time for procedures but it remains above the national average.

''At the end of 2011-2012, the median waiting time to surgery was 64 days, down 13 days from the 77 days reported for the same period in 2010-2011,'' the report reads.

''The number of patients waiting longer than standard timeframes (long waits) has had significant reductions, with only 898 recorded at the end of the 2011-2012, down from a record high of 2549 in January 2010.''

The report also notes that steps have been taken to prevent any recurrence of data-doctoring in the system to ensure that all information is ''valid, complete and accurate.''

''The Health directorate undertakes monthly validation checks of outpatient data,'' the report reads.

Tabling the document in the Assembly on Thursday, Health Minister Katy Gallagher said that arrangements with private hospitals had proved important in making progress on the elective surgery lists.

''While the overwhelming number of elective surgery procedures continues to be undertaken within the (public) hospitals, we've established partnerships with private providers within the ACT to increase access to care,'' she said.

''The partnerships provide particular support in those surgical areas where we have the largest waiting lists.

''All in all, we've managed 550 patients through the private provider arrangements since they began last year.''

But opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson said the reports were only necessary because of Ms Gallagher's ''appalling'' handling of the portfolio.

''Let's be clear why we had this report in the first place, because of the appalling record under the Health Minister and because of the reclassification of urgent patients to lower categories to make the books look good,'' Mr Hanson said.

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