Our sickening public hospitals, long waiting lists

| 30.06,09. 05:24 AM |

Our sickening public hospitals, long waiting lists

June 30, 2009 12:00am

PUBLIC hospital patients had to wait up to 11 days longer for elective surgery last year despite a $150 million Rudd Government plan that purchased an extra 41,000 operations.

The latest State of the Hospitals report tracks a further decline in the nation's public health system, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today expected to dodge his 2007 election promise to take over public hospitals if they had not improved.

The Government will also today receive two reports which are expected to call for a major overhaul of the health system and a new preventative health strategy.

Should Mr Rudd take over the country's hospitals? Tell us below.

These reports, commissioned by the Government, are expected to call for a national public dental scheme, a much greater role for the Federal Government in controlling hospital spending, higher tobacco taxes and a comprehensive attack on obesity.

The latest report on public hospitals shows the average waiting time for elective surgery grew from 32 to 34 days last year.

But the waiting times for some specific types of surgery lengthened even further with ear, nose and throat patients waiting 57 days for surgery, up 11 days on 2006-07. Orthopaedic patients waited 54 days for surgery, up from 50 days the year before.

Eye surgery had the longest wait in the country, averaging 68 days, a decline of three days in the past year.

Performance at emergency departments also declined with 31 per cent of patients not seen in the recommended time, up 1 per cent.

While public hospital admissions remained static at 4.7 million patients last year, the number of presen- tations to emergency departments grew to 7.1 million.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon blamed the decline on the Howard Government, which she said ripped $1 billion out of public hospitals.

But the report, covering 2007-08, includes the first seven months of the Rudd Government and its injection of $150 million in January 2008 to slash elective surgery waiting lists.

Mr Rudd had promised in 2007 he would hold a referendum to take over the public hospital system if it had not improved by 2009.



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