Springborg announces Queensland Health reform that guarantees timely surgery

LAWRENCE Springborg will today unveil an Australia-first reform to Queensland’s health system, guaranteeing every patient receives their surgery within the recommended time.

Patients will be sent to an alternative public hospital or to the private system if their local health service cannot treat them on time, under the Queensland health minister’s new plan.

The Patient Guarantee, which mirrors health systems in Scandinavia, where Mr Springborg recently visited, comes after the number of “long wait” patients – those waiting for surgery beyond recommended times – plummeted in Queensland from 6500 to 533 in the latest official figures.

The opening of new hospitals with greater capacity, an influx of federal funds, and major system redesigns instigated by the Newman Government combined to reduce the long wait list.

Mr Springborg told The Sunday Mail the long wait list was likely to be eliminated by the end of the year, opening the way for patients to be guaranteed their surgery on time.

“By the end of this year, we will have virtually zero, so we will have recalibrated the system,’’ he said. “The obligation then is for [health and hospital boards] to ensure they give every single patient their surgery on time.

“If they don’t, the obligation is for them to arrange that surgery so the patient has it on time at another public or private hospital.”

It will mean category one cases, in which specialists deem a patient’s condition to be at risk of worsening or becoming an emergency, will receive surgery within 30 days.

Category two cases, where the patient experiences pain or disability but it is unlikely to become an emergency, will receive surgery within 90 days, as recommended under nationally recognised treatment times.

Non-urgent category three patients, where the pain is minimal, will be operated on within a year.

However, the guarantee comes as the number of patients seeking appointments with specialists – the ‘‘waiting list to get on the waiting list” – jumped by 27 per cent to 411,283 at the end of 2013-14.

Mr Springborg said there would be cases in which patients did not receive surgery within the recommended times, when specialists deemed that there were mitigating medical reasons for an operation not proceeding.

“The only exceptions will be those people who are not ready for care – and there are a small number of those – or you have a specialty where there is not enough capacity in the system to do it on time,’’ he said.

The Patient Guarantee is expected to be “cost neutral”, with the 16 health and hospital service areas to pay for patients sent elsewhere – including to the private sector – from existing budgets.

Guarantee will come at a cost, Opposition says

However, there is still a backlog for what is known as “the waiting list to get on the waiting list”, with 239,000 people listed for a specialist outpatient appointment.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jo-Ann Miller said the real problem was being ignored, with those thousands of people just waiting for an appointment.

“It is absolutely incredible that this Health Minister is talking about such a Clayton’s guarantee when there are so many people on this wait list,” she said.

“He has no plan for ‘the wait list for the wait list’.”

She said the guarantee would come at a cost.

“People can go from Cairns to Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton or to Brisbane – all of that costs money,” she said.

“It costs money for flights, it costs money for carers, and it costs money for families and there’s no way in the wide world these can be cost neutral.

“What we’re looking at here is further cuts in health, further cuts in hospitals, or new taxes.”

The wait time guarantee starts on February 1.

Source: Courier Mail