Public Surgery Waiting Lists See Ageing Patients Leave Australia
The healthcare systems in Australia have their strengths and weaknesses. This year, elective surgery waiting times were one weakness addressed by QLD’s state Liberal leader Campbell Newman before his fall in the state election. Although public surgery waiting times are now shorter in QLD than they are in much of the country, international healthcare facilitators continue to report steady increases in patients travelling overseas for elective procedures from every state and territory. This begs the question, is the system still failing patients needlessly waiting in pain?
In Australia, patients in some states and territories wait much longer than others for elective hospital procedures like orthopaedic and cardiothoracic surgery. For example, patients in the ACT are five times as likely as patients in Western Australia to wait a year or more for these surgeries. Additionally, the waiting times between different surgery types is even more varied. Ultimately, Australian patients suffering from chronic diseases like osteoarthritis can wait 3-5 years (or more) for much needed procedures such as hip or knee replacement.
The international healthcare landscape is rapidly evolving and adapting to the needs of patients locked in countries where either surgery wait times or surgery prices are too high for their average citizens. SkyGen, a medical travel facilitator based in Queensland, is one such agent that opens doors across locations like Germany and Thailand to Australian patients stuck on domestic waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery.
“We analysed the figures presented in the most recent Australian Hospital Statistics Report and revealed massive opportunities for patients stuck on waiting lists here in Australia.” said Dan Donner, Medical Director of medical travel agency SkyGen.
According to the Australian report, almost 800 thousand patients are added to elective surgery waiting lists each year and only 700 thousand patients are receiving the surgery for which they waited. The surgeries required to correct age-related disorders are likely to result in an even larger issue, as Dan Donner explains.
“The waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery have already grown by over 10% in the past 5 years and are likely to continue growing alongside the steadily increasing age of the Australian population.”
“Overall, the number of patients being added and removed from elective surgery waiting lists each year are roughly equal and the current waiting lists are neither growing nor shrinking. As a result, the actual waiting times for patients in Australia are not likely to improve in the lifetimes of the patients currently on these lists.” says Mr Donner.
“Approximately 8000 patients either disappear from contact with hospitals each year or pass away in the time they spend waiting for their elected surgery in Australia.”
Additionally, approximately 65000 patients become unfit for or are otherwise denied from surgery after having waited for it, according to the report.
“By the time one of our earliest hip replacement surgery patients contacted us, he had grown both tired, and heavier, after patiently waiting on a public waiting list. He eventually gave up waiting and started paying his monthly premiums for private health insurance”, describes Jake Lemon, Executive Director at SkyGen. “After waiting another 12 months for his insurance to cover his pre-existing hip condition, he was ultimately denied his surgery. Immobilised by pain, he gained weight while waiting for surgery and this excluded him from cover as a high-risk patient.”
Mr Lemon continues, “It’s not a rarity for us to hear these stories of patients falling through the cracks. Most importantly, we provided this patient with an equally safe, immediate and affordable surgery alternative overseas. And we will continue to do this for countless others.”
(Pictured) An orthopaedic surgery patient who travelled with SkyGen to one of their partnered private hospitals in Bangkok for hip replacement after losing hope on a public waiting list and additionally being denied surgery by his private health insurer.
As SkyGen and other medical tourism facilitators like CosMediTour are rapidly developing their capacity for providing international healthcare to Australian patients, these companies appear to be effectively alleviating the current waiting lists and improve the state of affairs here in Australia.
“A patient may choose to wait on a public waiting list because they can’t afford $25-30,000 for a knee replacement in a private Australian hospital” says Jake Lemon. “But with the entire ” medical travel package for a knee replacement including flights, accommodation and all the extras available to patients for $10-15,000 we’re seeing growing numbers of patients leave the public waiting list to travel with our orthopaedic medical travel agency.”
According to the most recent Australian numbers, approximately 22,000 Australians remove themselves from elective surgery waiting lists each year by having their surgery performed elsewhere, including overseas. Not only does this shorten the waiting list and wait times for other patients, it may eventually reduce the economic burden of these “exported patients” on tax payers back home.
“Everyone’s heard the unfortunate stories of people travelling overseas for surgery independently and becoming unstuck. In contrast, international healthcare facilitation by experienced agencies protects medical travel patients by escorting them through hand-picked, high quality hospitals overseas.” says Dan Donner. “The thing is, patients actually save money when they travel for surgery with an agent so there really is no reason not to engage with a facilitator for your healthcare.”
“The Australian healthcare system has its incredible strengths, but waiting times for elective surgery really doesn’t seem to be one of them. As part of Australia’s largest medical travel group, we have the power to impact change here in Australia by sharing the unique strengths of offshore healthcare systems with Aussies waiting needlessly in pain.”
*Please read: Although the information provided on this page may describe a particular patient experience and/or outcome, readers must understand that each patient presents with a unique medical history and may be recommended a different treatment/surgery by their surgeon to that described above. Individual results may vary between surgery centre/hospital, surgeon, surgery type and patient. Although SkyGen agrees to share all updates from patients at their request, SkyGen does not endorse any physical activities attempted by patients following surgery which do not follow the explicit instructions provided by their surgeon. SkyGen encourages all patients to discuss the risks of such activities with medical professionals before attempting these themselves.