MORE than 12,000 Tasmanians are waiting for appointments with hospital specialists to find out whether they will then have to join the official public hospital waiting list for elective surgery.
The rarely discussed hospital specialist waiting list numbers were released by the state opposition yesterday from information acquired from the government after budget estimates briefings.
The figures revealed that the number of people waiting to see a hospital specialist had increased by 1272 since December last year.
More than 2000 of those waiting were urgent cases.
Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said that more than 160,000 surgical specialist appointments were made a year across the state.
"Approximately 14.5 per cent result in a patient being added to a surgical waiting list," Ms O'Byrne said.
"Many of the patients are simply waiting for routine, planned follow-up appointments."
Mr Rockliff said that the estimated 23,000 Tasmanians waiting in queues for access to Tasmanian public hospitals was shocking.
The government figures released by the opposition yesterday showed that there were 7765 people on the official elective surgery waiting list as well as 3255 on the statewide endoscopy waiting list for diagnostic procedures and another 12,229 on the statewide surgical outpatient waiting list for a hospital specialist.
Ms O'Byrne said that it was estimated that across the state's health system there will have been more than 735,000 patient contacts in the year 2012-13 as inpatients, as outpatients and in emergency departments.
"So 23,000 patients waiting for planned care at a particular point in time represents a tiny fraction of the total activity that takes place in our public hospitals each year," she said.
Mr Rockliff said that the health system was not well and neither were the thousands of Tasmanians stuck in no man's land who had been referred by their GPs to hospitals.
Ms O'Byrne said that it was impossible to see every patient in Tasmania immediately.
"People are constantly being added to and removed from lists - in terms of specialist appointments, the waiting list is seen more than 12 times over a year," she said.