‘More than just a list’: The painful truth facing Victorians – 9News

'More than just a list': The painful truth facing Victorians - 9News
One of the biggest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria has been increasing elective surgery wait list times.

Tens of thousands of Victorians are being left in pain, unable to work and without any certainty of when they’ll be operated on far beyond the timelines of what is medically advised.

Doctors have described the situation as catastrophic, with our state the worst-performing by far.

Sam Pollino was born with a number of holes in his heart. (Nine)

There are far too many stories of Victorians left languishing on elective surgery waitlists, like that of nine-year-old Sam Pollino.

Sam joined the queue for open heart surgery 15 months ago and is still waiting after many false starts.

“He’s often said to me that he’s really scared that his heart is just going to stop,” his mum, Louisa Pollino, told 9News.

Louisa Pollino’s son Sam has been in the queue for open heart surgery for 15 months. (Nine)

“That’s not something that you want to hear from your nine-year-old.”

Sam was born with a number of holes in his heart and has pulmonary stenosis, a type of heart valve disease, which leads to the valve narrowing, meaning his heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to his body.

The Taylors Lakes family’s life is essentially on hold until his surgery.

“It’s really stressful because we can’t say even to him we’ll get you through and then you can recover and we can put this behind us.”

Orthopedic surgeon John Cunningham says in his field public wait times are blowing out and it’s becoming disheartening to work in the public system.

“It’s catastrophic. It’s soul-destroying. People’s lives are, are being ruined because of this.”

It is also leading to excruciating conversations with patients.

“The first question they ask me when I tell them that I’m putting them on the public waiting list is, how long will it take?” Dr Cunningham said.

“I often don’t have a good answer for them. At the moment, I just reply years and we talk about options from there.”

Some patents are choosing to go private, despite waiting periods and cost of living pressures.

An additional 300,000 Australians took out private cover last year.

The main reasons for joining according to YouGov research:

  • shorter waiting times (54 per cent)
  • greater cost certainty (46 per cent)
  • better-quality private care (46 per cent)

It is, of course, not an option for all. And for those left behind, the numbers are bleak.

At the end of 2021 less than two per cent of patients waited more than a year for elective surgery.

The amount waiting more than a year grew to more than 10 per cent by December 2022.

While Category one patients are being treated within the recommended 30 days, those in Category 2 who are not seen within 90 days are waiting on average 307 days. Category 3 is even worse, the average wait for an overdue patient is 648 days.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson told 9News he does not think Australia’s health system has ever had this amount of people waiting for care in the past.

“It’s truly extraordinary and I think for many, many Australians, it’s an absolute disaster for them,” he said.

“We need a national plan and how to deal with this.”

After an election fought on health, the State Government was accused of being too focused on building new hospitals rather than fixing problems within existing ones.

Health minister Mary-Anne Thomas says they will do both.

“It’s never acceptable to me that people are waiting beyond the recommended time frames. And that’s why we’ve got to have ambitious targets,” she said.

The government is aiming to have 240,000 elective surgeries completed a year by 2024 – whether that’s achievable is in question.

Last year 161,399 patients were treated.

Minister Thomas said people waiting for elective surgery was “the impact of the of COVID in the healthcare system”.

But Louisa Pollino has reminded people: “All of these numbers are people who are going through different situations, their families are going through those situations. it’s more than just a list.”

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Source: 9news.com.au

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