Addressing the ‘hidden wait time’ for specialist medical appointments

6 May, 2021
Addressing the ‘hidden wait time’ for specialist medical appointments Image

It’s called the ‘hidden wait time’ – it’s the time you wait after being referred from your GP to a Specialist. The reason it’s called that is because in NSW the government doesn’t publish any information about the expected or average wait times to see a medical specialist.

I've been told that in Broken Hill there are 700 people on a waitlist to see a Dermatologist - the expected wait time - years! This is just one specialist service that has an excessive wait time. I have heard from people who have waited excessive amounts of time to see Oncologists, Cardiologists and Paediatricians.

The wait times people are reporting to me are extremely concerning. We know that people get sicker the longer they sit waiting to see a specialist. What may have started off as a simple or small problem can escalate decreasing people’s quality of life and lead to having more and more appointments.

I've heard anecdotally that NSW Health assumes that some people will 'leave the waitlist' you can make your own assumptions about how they leave.

As a first step I’m calling on the NSW Government to track and publish average and maximum wait times for each hospital by speciality area. The SA Government already produces a report on a quarterly basis which assists GPs and patients in making decisions about treatment options.

We cannot begin to address the problem until we have accurate information about the current state of affairs.

I'm taking this issue on because of the high cost burden being sick has on people in Barwon, we have to travel further to access medical care and that comes at a high cost – petrol, accommodation, and lost income from taking days off.

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