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On-time operations or get it free: Qld

On-time operations or get it free: Qld
Photo: On-time operations or get it free: Qld
Patients in Queensland requiring surgery will be operated on within the medically recommended time or get it all free, says the health minister.

Queensland's health minister has announced a guarantee that patients will receive their surgery within the recommended time.

From February 1, Queensland patients will be entitled to elective, non-emergency surgery within the medically recommended time or be offered the next available appointment in a public or private hospital at no cost.

Urgent surgeries are recommended to take place within 30 days, semi-urgent within 90 days and non-urgent procedures within a year.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg says the guarantee, which was inspired by similar systems in Scandinavia, was possible because of a "recalibration" of the health system that transferred management to local hospital and health boards.

"Our patient care is very much focused on the needs of Queenslanders, not a bureaucratic process," Mr Springborg said.

But the health minister made it clear the wait time started when a specialist recommended surgery, not when patients first visited their GP.

Several procedures are not covered by the guarantee, including surgery not covered by Medicare and surgery where an organ or tissue donation is needed first.

There are also exemptions where qualified surgeons are in short supply, including for bone lengthening and deep brain stimulation.

The exempted procedures will be reviewed every six months.

Mr Springborg said the government was working with medical colleges to increase the number of specialists in certain fields.

"If you look at some of those real super-specialties, there's only a handful of specialists who are trained and reach their full accreditation each year," he said.

"So we're dealing with the ones here that we've got control over."

Mr Springborg said he expected other states and territories would follow the model.

He said 6485 patients had waited longer than the medically recommended time for surgery in March 2012, while that number had dropped to 531 in September this year.

"By the end of this year we're probably very close to zero, so what we'll be talking about here will be a very small number of patients, because we've virtually cleared the long-wait surgical listing in Queensland as it is," Mr Springborg said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jo-Miller said the cost neutral plan meant there would be more health cuts.

"The only way Lawrence Springborg's Clayton's promise can be delivered is through more cuts or a big new tax like (Prime Minister) Tony Abbott's GP tax," Ms Miller said in a statement.

"Putting aside the fact that someone waiting for an operation in Cairns shouldn't be shipped to Brisbane away from their families or support network to undergo surgery, Lawrence Springborg needs to explain how this will be funded."

- Heart/lung operations (cardiothoracic)
- Ear, nose and throat operations (ENT)
- Neurosurgery (brain and spinal cord)
- Ophthalmology (eye surgery)
- Orthopaedics (bone muscle and tendon operations)
Source: Queensland Government



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