Springborg announces ‘wait time guarantee’ to reduce elective surgery waiting lists

By Rachel Riga

The Queensland Government has announced a ‘wait time guarantee’ policy that will reduce elective surgery waiting lists.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the State Government’s guarantee was an Australian first and would ensure Queenslanders received elective surgery on time.

He said patients with urgent cases would be treated within a month, semi-urgent cases in 90 days, and non-urgent cases within a year.

“For too long we’ve had far too many patients in Queensland that have languished on long-term hospital waiting lists and their care has not been properly provided,” he said.

“This is going to be an Australian first, and it will mean that our Queensland patients, our citizens, will be put first when it comes to having their surgery on time.”

Mr Springborg said if the surgery could not be done in time, patients would be treated at another public or private hospital at no cost.

He said location would not be an issue.

“If they live in the most remote parts of northern Queensland or western Queensland, they can be guaranteed of their surgery on time,” he said.

Mr Springborg said the policy would be cost neutral.

“There is no additional funding for this from Treasury,” he said.

“This is being funded from within Queensland by a significant reduction in bureaucracy and red tape.”

Mr Springborg said the specialist outpatient appointment list remained steady.

He said the focus of the new ‘wait time guarantee’ policy would get waiting numbers down.

“There are some figures which are circulating today which are a misinterpretation,” he said.

“Indeed in the last 12 months or so there has been 27 per cent increase in the number of people getting there initial outpatient appointments.

“The number of people waiting to see specialist has remained static so that has not increased.”

Metro South Health Service chief executive Dr Richard Ashby said measures put in place would ensure patients were guaranteed surgery anywhere in Queensland.

“We’re as confident as we can be – it’s all going to be down now to collaboration and communication, so we have surgical coordinators and we have coordinators within specialities,” he said.

“They’ll be working together across the city and across the state to make sure that the guarantee is met.”

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.