Report introduces new methods of reporting elective surgery waiting times data

New types of measures to examine data on elective surgery waiting times in Australian hospitals help to improve data comparability at a State and Territory level.

The new measures are introduced in Waiting times for elective surgery in Australia 1999-00 released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The data are now presented as the number of days by which 50% (the median waiting time) and 90% of patients had been admitted. The proportions of patients who waited more than 12 months for admission are also presented.

Head of the AIHW's Health Division, Geoff Sims, said that the new approach considers all patients together, rather than in clinical urgency categories, which had been the basis for previous reports. This overcomes comparability problems introduced by apparent wide variation in urgency categorisation.

'We are now able to present clearer information about patterns of waiting times experienced by patients,' Mr Sims said.

The report shows that in 1999-00 the median waiting time for patients who were admitted from waiting lists was 27 days nationally, and ranged from 22 days in Queensland to 36 days in Tasmania. Overall, 90% of patients were admitted within 175 days. The proportion of patients admitted after waiting for more than 12 months was 3.1%.

Data are presented for the first time for different hospital peer groups. In principal referral and specialist women's and children's hospitals, the median waiting time was 24 days. It was 31 days in other large hospitals, and 28 days in medium hospitals. The 65 principal referral and specialist women's and children's hospitals accounted for about 66% of all admissions from waiting lists in the data collection, with the 95 other large and medium hospitals accounting for another 32% between them.

Most surgical specialties had median waiting times of less than 30 days. Cardio-thoracic surgery was the surgical specialty with the shortest median waiting time (11 days). Orthopaedic surgery and ophthalmology had the longest median waiting times at 53 and 54 days respectively.

Data were also collected for a range of frequently performed 'indicator' procedures. Coronary artery bypass graft was the procedure with the lowest median waiting time (15 days), while total knee replacement had the highest median waiting time at 112 days.


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