Canberrans are spending less time waiting for elective surgery than they were a year ago but they are still facing the longest median wait times in the country.
The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, published on Friday, shows that Canberrans face a median wait of 51 days for surgery, compared with a national average of 36 days.
But the report shows significant gains for the territory government both in terms of the number of surgeries performed and the reduced waiting periods. Territory hospitals performed 11,628 operations in 2012-13, a 2.3 per cent increase on the year earlier and above the national average rise of 1.8 per cent.
While wait times did not change in other jurisdictions, the median wait for ACT patients fell. The figure of 51 days is down from 63 days in 2011-12 and from a high in 2010-11 of 76 days. The ACT's median wait is now almost level with NSW, where patients wait an average of 50 days.
The percentage of patients waiting more than 365 days for care has fallen from 6.2 per cent last year to 4.1 per cent, but this is still the worst rate of any jurisdiction apart from Tasmania.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the results showed a significant improvement for the ACT's hospitals. ''Our numbers for people waiting are going down while other jurisdictions are trending up.'' Ms Gallagher said.
''Our number of operations is going up faster than the national average. It's almost impossible to put a negative spin on the ACT's performance in this report were it not for the median wait time.''
But Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said the Chief Minister should not be ''patting herself on the back when really Canberrans are waiting longer than they should be''.
''When Labor came to power in 2001 Canberrans didn't wait long for elective surgery,'' Mr Hanson said. ''The median wait time was about 40 days. It's a bit disingenuous for Katy Gallagher to be patting herself on the back when it's ACT Labor who broke the system.''
But Ms Gallagher has argued against the use of wait times as a measure of performance because there is no standard system for managing wait time figures across regions. ''It means very little to me while there's no consistency in terms of how other people manage their waiting lists,'' she said.
''I have been arguing … for years to get standard wait-list management and I haven't got anywhere. I'm not looking for excuses, it's just how the system works.''
Ms Gallagher added that the government had poured hundreds of millions of dollars into elective surgery to lift the number of operations and reduce the amount of patients who waited too long for care.
''I cannot tell you how much work has gone into this,'' she said. ''When we came to government we were doing 6000 operations a year. We're now doing 11,600, so the system has completely changed.''