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Victorians have been reassured their waiting times for elective surgery are at a record low

Photo: Vic minister hoses down surgery concerns
Victoria's health minister says elective surgery wait times are at a record low as a media report suggests the queue could grow this financial year.

Victorians have been reassured their waiting times for elective surgery are at a record low, despite data suggesting the queue could grow this financial year.

Analysis by News Corp says 40,754 Victorians are expected to have to wait for elective surgeries at major Melbourne major hospitals in 2019/20, marking a 43 per cent increase from the previous year.

The numbers come from dozens of annual 'priorities' agreements between the Victoria's health department and health agencies.

Elective surgeries include hip replacements, cataract extractions and ligament repairs.
State Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the figures reflect that hospitals emergency departments have had to focus more on flu patients in this year's "absolute horror" season.

"What they've had to do in response to this unprecedented flu season ... is bring forward expenditure, bring forward activity to focus on those additional emergency department presentations," she told reporters on Friday.

But she stressed what matters is not the sheer number of people waiting, but how long they are waiting. At the moment, the medium wait time is a record low of 26 days.

"Despite an unprecedented flu season, savage cuts from Canberra, we are seeing Victorian patients get their elective surgery faster than ever before," she said.

The Australian Medical Association's Victorian president said the idea Victorians are waiting less time for such surgeries was "nonsense", pinning the waiting time forecasts on "poor budgetary decisions".

"This is an appalling state of affairs for sick and vulnerable Victorians," Professor Julian Rait told 3AW radio on Friday.

The group representing Victorian private hospitals similarly said Ms Mikakos had "no excuse" for allowing a budget cut that could blow out surgery waiting times.

The Australian Private Hospitals Association also accused public hospitals of actively trying to pursue privately-insured patients so they can use their "private health benefits" in their system.

"In turn, the public hospital puts them ahead of the waiting list for public patients who have no other means to access health care," chief executive Michael Roff said.

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