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The latest information on elective surgery waiting times in Australia's public hospitals has been released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in the report Australian hospital statistics 2011-12: elective surgery waiting times. For the first time, these data are being reported within 4 months of the end of the reference period.

In 2011­-12, Australia's public hospitals admitted around 662,000 patients from elective surgery waiting lists. Almost one in four of these patients were admitted for General surgery (surgery on organs of the abdomen) and about one in seven was admitted for Orthopaedic surgery (surgery on bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, including knee and hip replacements).

'Over the five years from 2007-08 to 2011-12, the number of admissions from elective surgery waiting lists nationally rose by an average of 3.8% per year-but this was partly driven by an increase in the number of small hospitals reporting waiting times data', said AIHW spokesperson Alison Verhoeven.

In 2011-12, half (50%) of patients waited 36 days or less for public elective surgery-the same as in 2010-11, but a rise from the median waiting time in 2007-08 of 34 days.

Median waiting times for elective surgery ranged from 27 days in Queensland to 63 days in the Australian Capital Territory in 2011-12.

The surgical specialities with the longest median waiting times in 2011-12 were Ophthalmology, Ear, nose and throat surgery and Orthopaedic surgery (74, 66 and 63 days respectively). Cardiothoracic surgery had the shortest median waiting time (16 days).

Total knee replacement was the procedure with the longest median waiting time (184 days) while Coronary artery bypass graft had the shortest median waiting time (16 days).

Overall, the amount of time within which 90% of patients were admitted increased from 234 days in 2007-08 to 251 days in 2011-12.

'However, the longest waits have dropped-since 2007-08 the proportion of patients who waited more than a year to be admitted for surgery fell from 3.0% to 2.7%', Ms Verhoeven said.

Septoplasty and Total knee replacement were the procedures with the highest proportion of patients who waited more than a year (11.9% and 11.6%, respectively).

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 16 October 20122012 

Further information: Alison Verhoeven, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1089, mob. 0403 282 501
                                  Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1025, mob. 0409 307 671

Full publication: Australian hospital statistics 2011-12: elective surgery waiting times