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AMA Victoria applauds the State Govís decision to publish outpatient waiting times

Monday 17August 2015

The Australian Medical Association (Victoria) applauds the State Government’s decision to publish the wait times for specialist outpatient appointments. This is important data, which contributes to the overall picture of how long Victorians are actually waiting for elective surgery.

“Until now, the Government has only published the elective surgery wait times – which is the period from the specialists’/outpatient consultation until the surgery. For over 7 years, AMA Victoria has lobbied for data to show how long patients wait to first see the specialist (usually via a GP referral),” AMA Victoria President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today.

“The failure to publish outpatient waiting times has meant that elective surgery waiting lists seem much shorter than they actually are. We applaud the Government’s decision to release this important information.

“The outpatient report that was released today details the median wait time for a patient’s first appointment with a specialist. While this is a step in the right direction, we also need to know the average wait time. The median and the average are not the same. 50% of patients wait longer than the median,” Dr Bartone said.

AMA Victoria encourages the State Government to publish quarterly outpatient reports that detail: the average wait time for a first appointment, the number of patients waiting for a first appointment (based on speciality and hospital), and the proportion of patients waiting longer than 365 days for a first appointment.

“Today’s data confirms that some Victorians are waiting over a year for an outpatient appointment. These patients often suffer from pain and disability, and have a reduced quality of life. Far from being elective, this is essential surgery,” Dr Bartone said.

  • The median wait time for the first neurosurgery appointment at Northern Health is 451 days
  • The median wait time for the first ears, nose and throat (ENT) appointment at Bendigo Health Care Group is 469 days
  • The median wait time for the first ophthalmology appointment at Barwon Health is 279 days
  • The median wait time for the first orthopaedics/musculoskeletal appointment at Peninsula Health is 214 days
  • The median wait time for the first gynaecology appointment at Bendigo Health Care Group is 147 days

As of March this year, there were 41,349 Victorians waiting for elective surgery. According to the latest elective surgery data, the median (not average) wait for a total hip replacement is 106 days. Today’s data suggests that for patients at Peninsula Health, the median (not average) wait for a total hip replacement could be 320 days (i.e. a 214 day wait for an outpatient appointment plus a 106 day wait for surgery). 

AMA Victoria expects the Victorian Government (both now and in the future) to be transparent with elective surgery wait times and to publish quarterly reports that detail the average wait times for outpatient appointments and elective surgeries.

See more at the Dept of Health's
Specialist Clinics Quarterly Activity and Wait Time Report June 2015 Quarter report.

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