Canberrans face the longest average wait in the country for surgery and the ACT continues to lag behind the rest of Australia for emergency department waiting times.
But the territory enjoys some of the shortest waits for ambulances, and babies born in the ACT enjoy the longest life expectancy in the country, according to a major health report card issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The Australia's health 2014 report reveals the ACT has Australia's longest life expectancy at 81 years for men and 85 years for women. Internationally, Australia has the sixth longest life expectancy for men and seventh for women.
Snapshots of the ACT health system show the territory had the longest median waiting time for elective surgery with 51 days. Nationally, the longest waiting times were for ophthalmology, ear, nose and throat surgery and orthopaedic surgery.
Despite the ACT's long elective surgery waiting list, the territory achieved its targets for people seen within recommended times for at least one of the three clinical urgency categories for elective surgery. There was also a reduction in the average overdue waiting times for at least one of the categories. The ACT provided appropriate treatment to about 10 per cent of patients who had been on the waiting list the longest.
In the territory, just 57 per cent of emergency department patients completed their visit within the recommended four hours in 2012-13 – the lowest in the country – but the ACT, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania were the only jurisdictions to partially meet their 2012 targets.
The report also showed that the ACT had the quickest response times for ambulances, with 90 per cent of emergency incidents responded to in less than 15 minutes.
The two-yearly national health report card also showed Australians were living longer, had lower death rates for cancer and many other diseases and a health system most people said they were happy with, AIHW director and chief executive David Kalisch said.
But the report also found Australians were increasingly living with chronic disease, he said.
"Overall there's much we can be proud of in many areas of health, but I think the key point is that we also do point to the lifestyle-related chronic diseases potentially taking more of a toll on Australians in coming years and we're starting to see that in some areas, such as diabetes," he said.
About two-thirds of Australians were overweight or obese in 2011-12 and nearly three in five do not exercise enough.
More than 90 per cent of adults did not eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables while 52 per cent did not eat enough fruit, with the report saying inadequate consumption of fruit and vegetables was a risk factor for stomach cancer, colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Mr Kalisch said chronic diseases were the leading causes of illness, disability and death in Australia.
Health Minister Peter Dutton used the report to defend the federal budget, saying it confirmed an ageing population, chronic diseases, consumer expectations and new health technologies were factors in the growing cost of health and hospital services.
"Over the past 25 years, health spending has risen faster than either population growth or ageing, due largely to expensive new medicines and medical technologies," he said.
"That’s why we acted in the 2014-15 budget to build sustainability into our health system and to set it on a sure footing for the future.
"By asking people to make a modest $7 contribution to the cost of their own healthcare, we’re in a much stronger position to safeguard our health system from collapsing under its own weight."
Mr Dutton said unless the high rates of overweight and obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet could be turned around, more people would develop chronic diseases.