Queensland Health has hundreds of thousands of people waiting for specialist outpatient care

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In December, Heather Jacobs was told she would be seen by a specialist cardiology clinic within three months.

She’s still waiting.

“I have got heart failure, and I’ve got angina … and the ischaemic heart,” she said.

“All that sounds terrible, but I’m still going.

“They want to investigate, because palpitations have started happening, so they’ll investigate the valves and so forth.

“I’ve gone from [category] one, to two, to one again, then back to two.

“I guess if it was a situation that was incredibly acute, I would get into an ambulance and go to hospital.

“The trouble is they’re so full.”

Empty bed at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital
Close to 270,000 people are currently waiting for specialist outpatient care.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

Heather is one of hundreds of thousands of people waiting for an initial appointment at one of Queensland Health’s specialist outpatient clinics, which provide services that don’t require someone to be admitted to hospital.

There are 167,181 surgical patients and another 100,061 medical patients on the list.

It’s sometimes called “the waitlist for the waitlist” because it can include the care people receive before being booked for an elective surgery.

At times during the pandemic, many of those services were put on pause.

Scores of elective surgeries have also been cancelled or rescheduled during the past two-and-a-half years.

Few can confidently say what the total impact will be on the system.

Even before the pandemic hit, in July 2019, there were 212,247 people in Queensland waiting for a first appointment with an specialist outpatient clinic.

What are the waitlists like now?

At the end of June, there were 57,914 people waiting for elective surgery in Queensland, and 7,560 of them have been waiting longer than clinically recommended.

Of those, 266 were Category 1, having a condition that may get worse quickly, to the point that it’s an emergency. They’re meant to be seen within 30 days.



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