Canberra patients face lengthy waiting lists

The ACT is the only only jurisdiction where median wait times for public elective surgery can top a year, as new data shows Canberra's patients face some of the longest delays in the country.

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows the median wait time - the time within which half of all patients were admitted - for all public elective procedures in Canberra was 46 days.

That was second longest only to NSW, which had a median wait time of 54 days, and far longer the national median of 38 days.

And with five per cent more people added to the waiting list than were removed, the ACT had the most pressure added to its waiting list of any jurisdiction in the 2016/17 financial year.

Patients in need of head, ear, eye and nose surgery were the hardest hit, commonly forced to wait more than a year.

The median wait time for surgery to repair a perforated ear drum was 431 days - more than six months longer than NSW at 260 days - while 10 per cent of patients had to wait more than 2.2 years.

Of patients needing surgery to repair a deviated septum, half waited more than 360 days.

Canberra Hospital had a much shorter median wait time at 34 days compared to Calvary Public Hospital at 67 days.

The ACT failed to submit data to the institute last year, so results cannot be accurately compared, but the figure is up on the 45 day median wait in 2015.

The territory performed best among heart and lung elective surgeries with a median wait time of nine days - the equal quickest wait time for that category.

It rated worst in the country for wait times for ear eye and nose surgery, general surgery and "other" surgery.

There is bad news if you suffer from haemorrhoids, hernias or varicose veins - all topping the country for the longest wait times.

The median days waited for a tonsilectomy was 97 days across the country, but in Canberra a patient could expect to wait 233 days.

While 14,794 people were removed from the ACT's waiting list in 2016/17, 15,571 were added, a net gain of 777.

Nationally, waiting times for elective surgery have slightly risen, however, results vary across the states and territories, and between individual hospitals.

"Nationally, the median waiting time???that is, the time within which half of all patients were admitted???has tended to increase since 2012-13," AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves said.

It was 36 days in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, 35 days in 2014-15, 37 days in 2015-16, and 38 days in 2016-17.

"Waiting times also varied depending on the type of surgical procedure. The longest wait was for surgery on a deviated nasal septum, at 209 days. This compares with 13 days for coronary artery bypass surgery,'"Ms Hargreaves said.

The report also shows that waiting times vary between particular population groups. For example, Indigenous Australians continue to wait longer for elective surgery than non-Indigenous Australians, with a median wait of 45 days.

The report also shows that the proportion of patients who waited longer than 365 days to be admitted for their procedure generally decreased, down from 2.7% in 2012-13 to 1.7% in 2016-17.

Overall, the most common types of surgeries performed were general surgery (such as surgery on the abdomen, accounting for 22% of all elective surgeries) and orthopaedic surgery (such as knee and hip replacements, accounting for 15%).

Surgeries in the ACT with the longest median wait time:

Perforated eardrum- 431 days

Septoplasty - 360 days

Tonsillectomy - 233 days

Varicose veins treatment - 225

Total knee replacement - 223

State and territory median wait time:

NT - 28

Victoria - 30

QLD - 32

WA - 34

SA - 39

TAS - 45

ACT - 46

NSW - 54

This story Canberra patients face lengthy waiting lists first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.