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Longer public hospital waiting times

4 November 2011 - 4:15pm

The median waiting time in public hospitals has increased, according to a leading authority.

The Australian Medical Association's (AMA) annual Public Hospital Report Card has found that the median waiting time for elective surgery is now 35 days - an increase of three days since 2005-06.

AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton highlighted that the report fails to take into account patients waiting to see specialists prior to surgery - creating what he called 'hidden waiting lists'.

"For example, someone who has waited for their hip surgery, according to the 'official' count, may already have waited an additional six months from the time they received their GP referral to the time they first saw a specialist," Dr Hambleton said.

The report found that more than 3.5 per cent of patients admitted for elective surgery in 2009-10 had waited for more than a year.

While public surgery waiting lists continue to grow, private health insurance offers policy holders with the option to avoid growing waiting lists by attending a private hospital and choosing their own doctor.

According to the AMA, less than 400 new beds were opened across Australia in 2009-10, impacting on elective surgery waiting times.