The Hazardous Truth of Waiting for Surgery


Dr Ashish Agar recently spoke to ABC radio Sydney about patient waiting lists and our failing health system.


With patients throughout Australia waiting up to 2.5 years for vital eye surgeries, the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO) has labelled the indefinite pause on elective surgery “as critical as COVID” and is calling on State and Territory leaders to urgently restart our hospitals.

Recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals 750,000 Australians are currently waiting for some form of elective surgery. Patients are now waiting three times longer than the legislated or recommended timeframe for cataract surgeries. Leaving Australians at greater risk of losing vision, having falls, injuries and even dying.

Public Health Research and Practice (PHRP) states that within a 12-month period, cataract patients suffer 199 680 falls. Falls are the largest contributor to hospitalised injuries and the leading cause of injury deaths across Australia. AIHW data shows that 43% of patients admitted into care are seen for hospitalised injuries linked to falls and trips and 39% of these injuries were associated with a higher risk of death.

ASO President, Associate Professor Ashish Agar said, Australians should not be waiting for accidents to occur or left with poor eyesight waiting for cataract surgery.

“Elective surgery is described as a procedure that is 100% the choice of a patient to have or not have, but this cannot be further from reality. No one chooses to have a cataract and lose vision. These waits are unacceptable in a first world country like Australia.

“They were already significant before the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of patients going untreated now simply adds to the healthcare crisis in our hospitals, and we won’t be able cope in the coming years.

“Announcements that public hospitals can resume elective surgery in some states are misleading. They conveniently hide the fact that many of our hospitals, especially in the capital cities, are not doing so. The fallout from the mismanagement of the pandemic response is far from over, with severe staff shortages, as well as burnout staff.

“Further, some of the largest hospitals remain under severe financial pressure, thus preferring to save money rather than treat patients.

“The AMA has also highlighted this inequity and we support their efforts to address this short-sighted approach to our healthcare,” Associate Professor Agar said.

The ASO demands that State and Territory leaders re-instate all elective surgery across Australia immediately, and equally importantly ensure that hospitals comply, so patients receive the sight-saving operations they need no longer suffer needlessly.

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