Surgery Waiting Times At Public Hospitals 'Going Backwards'

The latest Australian Medical Association Public Hospital Report Card paints a "depressing picture of overstretched hospitals and patients waiting longer for their care", according to AMA President Dr Tony Bartone.

The AMA's 2019 Public Hospital Report shows one million Australians requiring urgent surgery are waiting longer than clinically recommended.

Patients are also waiting longer for elective surgery.

“Public hospitals are a vital pillar of our world-class health system, but neglect and underfunding are dooming them to failure,” Bartone said in a statement.

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Emergency treatment times for urgent patients in most of Australia's states and territories have "gone backwards", according to the report.

More than a third of the almost three million Australians who visited a public hospital's emergency department needing urgent treatment waited longer than clinically recommended.

Less than 65 percent of urgent presentations were seen within the recommended 30-minute time frame in 2017-18.

For elective surgery, most jurisdictions performed worse than in previous years or remained static.

One of the report's key findings was a 24-year low of hospital beds per 1000 people aged 65 years and older.

People aged over 65 account for 40 per cent of hospital visits, up from 37 percent 10 years ago.

Bartone stressed public hospital capacity is "determined by funding".

“Underfunding can lead to increased numbers of deaths for admitted patients, higher levels complications, delayed care, delayed pain relief, and longer length of stay for patients,” he said.

The AMA is now calling on political leaders to commit to significant new long-term funding for Australia’s public hospitals.

If elected to Government next month, Labor has offered a $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund. The party has also committed to cover 50 percent of public hospital budgets.

Bill Shorten at a conference with Labor candidate Nadia Clancy and Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King, in Adelaide this month. Image: Stefan Postles/Getty.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also committed to investing $200 million to keep pathology tests free for older Australians and Australians with cancer.

The Coalition -- pledging to cover 45 percent of public hospital budgets -- has promised a new $1.25 billion Community Health and Hospitals Program.

The Program will improve health care specialist services including cancer treatment, drug and alcohol treatment, preventive, primary and chronic disease management and mental health.

Featured Image: Getty

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