Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson
Today’s update to the HealthStats dashboard paints a bleak picture for those Tasmanians waiting for urgent, potentially life-saving elective surgery. Health Minister Sarah Courtney must immediately commit to using Tasmania’s private hospital system to address the problem.
In just six months the Category 1 waiting list has jumped 17%, from 790 to 923 patients.
As a result, patients who are overdue for Category 1 surgery are now waiting on average 100 days longer than the national clinically recommended guidelines. That’s an appalling rise of 27%.
Perhaps most concerning is the number of patients on the waiting list who have been admitted for emergency surgery because their condition deteriorated. In the year to June, 131 Tasmanians had emergency surgery because they weren’t seen early enough – that’s a distressing 38% increase from the previous year.
To be clear, that’s 131 Tasmanians whose lives were potentially at risk because the health system couldn’t provide them help in time. When people are denied life-saving urgent care when needed, it’s not surprising – but totally avoidable – they end up having emergency surgery.
While the coronavirus pandemic has placed significant extra strain on the health system, we have not seen the Health Minister demonstrate she’s tackling the issue by using all means at her disposal to bring down these waiting lists.
The Commonwealth Government allocated $1.3 billion to support states using the private hospital system to add capacity to the public system. Minister Courtney has previously made vague statements about accessing this resource, but Tasmanians in desperate need of surgery deserve action.
The Health Minister must commit to using the private hospital system to bring down elective surgery waiting lists as much as possible, and to make sure the impact of this pandemic does not continue to burden Tasmanians who need urgent healthcare for years to come.