Waiting times for emergency department and elective surgery on the rise

Nationally, waiting times for elective surgery and emergency department care are steadily rising, according to two reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The reports, Elective surgery waiting times 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics and Emergency department care 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics have been released in combination with hospital-specific data on the AIHW’s MyHospitals website.

Elective surgery waiting times 2017–18 shows the median waiting time for elective surgery—that is, the time within which half of all patients were admitted—has risen since 2013–14. It was 36 days in 2013–14, 37 days in 2015–16, and 40 days in 2017–18.

‘In 2017–18, across the states and territories, the median waiting time for elective surgery ranged from 23 days in the Northern Territory to 55 days in New South Wales,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster said.

The proportion of patients who waited longer than 365 days to be admitted for their procedure slightly increased from 1.7% in 2016–17 to 1.8% in 2017–18, but remains lower than 5 years ago in 2013–14, when the proportion was 2.4%.

‘Waiting times also varied depending on the type of surgical procedure. In 2017–18, the longest median wait was for Septoplasty (surgery for a deviated nasal septum) at 248 days, compared with 17 days for coronary artery bypass graft surgery,’ Dr Webster said.

‘Overall, Indigenous Australians continue to wait longer for elective surgery than non-Indigenous Australians, with a median wait of 48 days compared with 40 days.’ Dr Webster said.

Today’s second report, Emergency department care 2017-18: Australian hospital statistics, shows that there were more than 8 million presentations to public hospital emergency departments—an average of about 22,000 each day. Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, this increased by 2.7% each year on average.

The report also shows a rise in waiting times for emergency department care in Australia.

‘In 2017–18, 72% of people presenting to emergency departments were seen ‘on time’ for their urgency (triage) category, a decrease from 75% in 2013–14. This varied across the states and territories, ranging from 49% of patients seen ‘on time’ in the Australian Capital Territory to 80% in New South Wales,’ Dr Webster said.

Nationally, almost 100% of resuscitation patients (those requiring treatment immediately) and 92% of non-urgent patients (requiring treatment within 2 hours) were seen on time. For patients requiring treatment within 10 minutes, 76% were seen on time.

In emergency departments, the median waiting time for Indigenous Australians was the same for non-Indigenous Australians (19 minutes).

About one-quarter— or almost 2 million—emergency department presentations were for injuries or poisoning.

As part of today’s releases, the AIHW has also published updated hospital-specific data on the MyHospitals website.

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