The health system of southern Australian hospitals has been graded at the bottom of the class with respect to their elective surgery admissions and waiting times.
This rating has been awarded despite the public hospitals in the state having recorded the second highest number of beds per capita in the whole nation. Statistics indicate that there are 2.9 beds for every 1000 in population.
Health Minister Tony Abbott, who released a report on the nations public hospitals, which found that South Australian patients are waiting for an average 35 days for elective surgery, 24 hours longer than their recorded waiting time in 2003/4, and an average of 6 days longer when compared nationally. The report also suggested that 83% of the public elective surgery patients were seen within the recommended time, which had bought about a 10% drop from 1998-99 and that this has compared favourably with all other states.
The report also revealed S.Australia has spent $554 per person on public hospital recurrent expenditure. This was explained as the lowest level of spending among all states and territories, despite a 57% rise in the past five years. It was also shown that in the state's emergency departments, about 63% of patients were treated within the clinically appropriate time period that was below the national average of 68%.
The local Health Minister John Hill has sung praises on the state's emergency departments, as they are no longer the worst performers in the nation as was the case in 2003/04, where in reports had indicated that just 55% were being treated on time. He contended that the new SA Health Department's Elective Surgery Bulletin statistics had showed a 49% decrease in the number of people who were waiting for more than 12 months for an elective surgery since June 2004.
The opposition Health Spokeswoman Vickie Chapman has however said that the fact that 42% of those waiting for elective surgery had been pushed into the least urgent category, which was well above the national average of 34, was a matter of grave concern. She said, "The figures show our hospitals are still very much on the sick list." Dr Chris Cain, the state president of the Australian Medical Association has said that the report has strengthened the argument, which calls for a major restructuring of the system and more funding.