Elective surgery admissions rise, waiting times unchanged

Australia's public hospitals admitted about 673,000 patients from elective surgery waiting lists in 2012-13, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Between 2011-12 and 2012-13, admissions for elective surgery increased by 1.8%. Admissions increased in New South Wales, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory; they decreased in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2012-13: elective surgery waiting times, presents information on elective surgery waiting times for public hospitals for the period 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.

In 2012­-13, almost one in four patients were admitted for General surgery (surgery on organs of the abdomen) and about one in seven were admitted for Orthopaedic surgery (surgery on bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, including knee and hip replacements).

The report shows that in 2012-13, 50% of patients waited up to 36 days for public elective surgery-the same as in 2011-12, but an increase from the median waiting time in 2008-09 of 33 days.

Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the median waiting times for most states and territories were fairly stable. For the Australian Capital Territory, the median waiting time decreased from 74 days to 51 days, with most of this improvement over the last two years. For New South Wales, the median waiting time increased from 39 days in 2008-09 to 50 days in 2012-13.

Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the surgical specialities with the longest median waiting times were Ophthalmology, Ear, nose and throat surgery and Orthopaedic surgery (76, 68 and 65 days, respectively in 2012-13). Cardio-thoracic
surgery
 was consistently the surgical speciality with the shortest median waiting time, but increased from 11 days in 2008-09 to 17 days in 2012-13.

In 2012-13, Septoplasty (correction of a deviated or dislocated septum in the nose) andTotal knee replacement were the procedures with the longest median waiting time (197 days and 196 days respectively) while Coronary artery bypass graft was the procedure with the shortest median waiting time (16 days).

The amount of time overall within which 90% of patients were admitted for their awaited procedure rose from 219 days in 2008-09 to 265 days in 2012-13.

'The proportion of patients who waited more than a year to be admitted for their surgery remains unchanged at around 3%,' said AIHW spokesperson Nigel Harding.

'Information on waiting times by clinical urgency category is not comparable between states and territories. All health ministers have agreed to improve the consistency of reporting by clinical urgency categories following recent recommendations from the AIHW and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons', Mr Harding said.

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, 4 October 2013

Further information: Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1025, mob. 0409 307 671