Some situations can drive even the most patient person to meltdown.
Waiting for emergency care, specialist appointments and “elective” procedures is not only inconvenient and frustrating, it can also be painful and detrimental to your health and well-being.
Spending on health care has grown rapidly in recent years. Approximately 10 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product (A$147 billion in 2012-2013) is invested in these services annually. Of this, just under A$60 billion was spent on hospital services.
So why do we wait so long for hospital care?
Watch: Five things you need to know about PCOS. (Post continues after video.)
The latest available data shows that half of all patients were admitted for elective surgery within 36 days of being placed on a waiting list and 90 per cent of patients were admitted within 262 days. This means 10 per cent of people waited longer than eight-and-a-half months.
These figures hide a great degree of variability, with 50 per cent of people based in Queensland being admitted for surgery in 28 days and longer waits in New South Wales (49 days).
Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of Australians visiting emergency departments were seen within four hours. But, again, there is variation across states (62 per cent in the ACT and Northern Territory, and 79 per cent in Western Australia).
While it’s unlikely to provide much comfort, Australians don’t wait as long as in some other publicly-funded health systems. (Post continues after gallery.)
The efficiency argument
Any economist will tell you that where there are finite resources, waiting lists can be a useful mechanism to enhance efficiency. They also ensure that someone really wants to access that service.
Mediating the flow of people into services ensures scarce resources (medical professionals, beds, equipment) are in use as much as possible and highly paid clinicians and expensive machinery are not going unused for long periods.
This is particularly helpful in areas where it is difficult to estimate future demand – for example, where a town grows rapidly due to migration.