Surgery wait list longest of states

EVEN 18 months ago Tasmanians were waiting longer than most other people in the country for elective surgery.

This year's Australian Productivity Commission's report on government services, released yesterday, revealed that 28 per cent of Tasmania's category 1 patients - the most urgent ones - had an extended wait for surgery in 2010-11.

The report comes two days after the release of health analyst Martyn Goddard's 32-page report, which labels Tasmania as the "nation's least economically efficient public hospital system".

Nearly 40 per cent of Tasmanian category 2 elective surgery patients and 28 per cent of category 3 elective surgery patients also had an extended wait for their procedures.

Only ACT and the Northern Territory's figures were worse - and that was in only one of the three categories of patient need.

In the ACT 55.1 per cent of category 2 elective surgery patients had an extended wait and in the Northern Territory 41.2 per cent of category 2 patients waited what was considered an extended length of time.

Both states were well below the Tasmanian percentage numbers of people waiting long periods of time for both their category 1 and category3 patients.

Tasmanian Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said that the state was doing well based on the productivity commission figures despite increasing demand.

But the 18-month-old figures compiled before the worst of the state's savage health budget cuts were introduced instead indicated that the state's elective surgery crisis would only have deepened.

Tasmania's three major public acute care hospitals all closed operating theatres as part of budget cost cuts introduced from December 2011.

Ms O'Byrne said that the productivity commission figures showed that the number of full-time nurses in Tasmania per 100,000 people was well above the national average.

Other figures mentioned in the report no longer provided an accurate picture of the state of Tasmanian public health because of their age and the often significant change in circumstances since government budget cuts were introduced.

Tasmania does remain one of only two jurisdictions in Australia which provides a free ambulance service to the general public.

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