Half a million Australians will be on elective surgery waiting lists by the end of the financial year, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has warned.
A new report has highlighted the dire state of Australia’s healthcare system, with analysis from the AMA showing a five-month backlog for elective surgeries.
“Our analysis shows hospitals can’t meet demand or the recommended timeframes for surgeries and it’s only going to get worse without intervention,” AMA President Professor Steve Robson said in a statement.
“There’s currently an estimated elective surgery backlog of 306,281 patients nationally and this will grow to more than 500,000 by the end of the financial year if something isn’t done.”
According to the AMA’s analysis, waiting lists of 500,000 Australians would equate to an eight-month backlog for state health systems around the country.
By far the largest backlog is in Victoria with 134,950 people on elective surgery waiting lists. If the trend continues, this figure will grow to over 200,000 – over three per cent of the state’s population.
The report cites the postponement of elective surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic as one key reason for the backlog. But this is unlikely to be the only cause, with the report noting “public hospital performance has been deteriorating for several years, even before the pandemic.”
The AMA is campaigning for a new funding agreement between the state and Commonwealth governments, with the Commonwealth providing funding upfront so the states and territory governments can expand capacity and address the elective surgery backlog.
“This should reduce the backlog of hospital outpatient appointments (the hidden waiting list) by providing funding to state and territory governments or directly to health services to assist in expanding the number of public outpatient appointments,” Professor Robson said.