Cataract: Baird govt uses a waiting list for a waiting list - up to four years

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NSW Labor has exposed the Baird Government’s “fudging” of elective surgery lists like cataract removal – by creating a waiting list for patients to get on the elective surgery waiting list.

The Optometrists Association Australia said western Sydney patients are waiting up to four years to have the surgery performed in some western Sydney hospitals – with some of the longest waits at Westmead, Bankstown and Liverpool hospitals.

Last week (June 4), the Health Minister Jillian Skinner claimed the Government had “treated a record number of patients” in the most recent reporting period (January-March 2015).

In a media statement, Mrs Skinner claimed: “Ophthalmology: 99 per cent of patients are receiving their care within clinically-recommended timeframes, compared to 97 per cent at the same time last year.”

But NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has revealed the published figures do not take into account an average one year wait to get an assessment appointment – before then being placed on an actual waiting list.

Cataract surgery was the most common elective procedure performed in the latest figures – with a median waiting time of 232 days in NSW.

Mr Secord pointed to a Merrrylands pensioner – Mrs Marjorie “Sara” Morgan – who was told it would take almost a year to get an appointment for an assessment at Westmead Hospital, and then another wait of up to six months for the actual procedure – totalling 18 months.

She was advised it would take up to 16 months to get an assessment at Bankstown Hospital and then an additional year wait to get the actual procedure there – totalling 28 months.

At Westmead Hospital, for the same reporting period (January-March 2015 compared to January-March 2014), the waiting period increased from 93 days to 164 days.

At Bankstown Hospital, for the same reporting period, the waiting period increased from 330 days to 354 days.

Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord said:

“The Government is using short stay units in emergency departments to give the appearance of cutting waiting emergency times - and now they are using two levels of lists for elective surgery.

“This is a clear case of fudging the figures. This is a waiting list for a waiting list.

“Mrs Morgan’s case illustrates the absurdity of a waiting list for a waiting list. She has been told she has to wait almost a year for an assessment and then she is put on the actual waiting list for another six months at Westmead.

“It is even worse at Bankstown Hospital, where the assessment wait is 16 months followed by another year wait for the actual procedure.

“It is time the Government came clean and published the real figures through the Bureau of Health Information.”

“Mrs Morgan is blind in one eye and is rapidly losing sight in the other. She should not have to wait two years to get the cataracts removed.”