*Pic: The buck stops here … Tasmanian Health Minister Michael Ferguson …

Patients in need of urgent attention are being made to wait for up to two years or more for their first consultation with a specialist in Tasmania’s main public hospitals. Extraordinary waiting times are endangering the lives of some patients.

Newly-released data reveals the seriousness of the state’s ‘hidden’ waiting lists. People are not counted on other waiting lists, such as those for elective surgery, until they have had their first consultation with a hospital specialist.

As a result, the outpatient clinic lists are often called ‘the waiting list to get on the waiting list’.

Data obtained by Unions Tasmania under a right-to-information request show the average waiting times for urgent neurology patients at the Launceston General Hospital was 422 days at the end of July.

At the Royal Hobart Hospital, where figures are reported differently, people in severe and chronic pain ‒ the most urgent category ‒ had spent 140 days at the 75th percentile mark waiting to see a pain specialist. That means 74% had been waiting less long and 24% had been on the list for longer. The released material does not disclose how long that 24% people had to wait.

And a quarter of people with hepatitis C in the most urgent category had to wait for at least 530 days for their first consultation.

Also at the RHH, a quarter of people needing urgent neurosurgery have to wait for 494 days or longer. For semi-urgent cases the figure was 1,291 days and for non urgent it was 1,595 days.

A quarter of patients classified as urgently needing colorectal care ‒ a category that includes people thought likely to have colorectal cancer ‒ have to wait at least 112 days, or well over three months, to see a specialist for the first time.

For urgent gastroenterological and liver patients, the figure was 972 days, or almost two years.

At the Launceston General, the waiting times for urgent colorectal surgery patients was 82 days, for dermatology patients 201 days, for paediatric medicine 153 days and for kidney patients 145 days.

In most clinics, patients in the urgent category were seen the most quickly. Those classed as semi-urgent or non-urgent had to wait much longer ‒ well over four years in some cases.

The Department of Health and Human Services took two and a half months to respond to the RTI request.

Download spreadsheets for RHH clinics and LGH clinics …



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