Shocking divide in wait times for hip and knee replacements
Waiting for elective surgery can be a postcode lottery, with waits as long as 375 days - more than a year - at some country hospitals but as little as just seven days at city hospitals.
A detailed examination of the data hidden away in government departments shows regional residents wait far longer for knee and hip replacements than most inner-city Sydney residents.
Opposition rural health spokeswoman Kate Washington said the figures were a "powerful illustration of a stark divide".
She said many rural communities were struggling to attract a local doctor, much less specialist surgeons.
"It's a complex issue and that's why we've got a parliamentary inquiry underway to look at this," she said. "Regional communities are really struggling to get health services."
Lismore Base Hospital tops the state for the longest wait for knee replacement - a median 375 days. In fact 63 per cent of patients wait more than a year.
It's followed by Shoalhaven, Coffs Harbour, Bowral and Goulburn Hospitals.
But at Sydney's inner city Royal Prince Alfred, in Camperdown, patients wait just seven days, while other city hospitals such as Ryde take 113 days, and it is 100 days at St Vincent's in Darlinghurst.
For a hip replacement, Goulburn Hospital has the longest wait, at 354 days. The next slowest are Bowral, Hawkesbury, Wagga and Dubbo.
Far quicker are city hospitals: It's nine days at Royal Prince Alfred and 63 days at St Vincent's.
If you need a skin lesion excised, Fairfield Hospital takes the longest, with a 255 days wait, followed by The Children's Hospital at Westmead, which takes 92 days, then Shoalhaven Hospital at 89 days.
At Royal Prince Alfred it takes just 11 days, and it is even at Scone's Scott Memorial Hospital which takes seven days, and Parkes Hospital at eight days.
Overall, waiting lists for elective surgery have grown for 20 consequent quarters, NSW opposition health spokesman Ryan Park said, from "73,000 in June 2015 to 101,000 today".
"We worry the Government will try say this is all just because of COVID - but the reality is that under this Government the elective surgery waitlist has been long out of control," he said.
"We need to fix this. People are waiting in pain while the list grows and grows."
Freeman Turner associate lawyer Lidia Monteverdi gets a lot of inquiries from people in rural settings who have experienced delays in transfer to bigger hospitals or who have had a missed diagnosis due to a lack of resources and skilled practitioners in smaller towns or hospitals.
"There is a huge gap between the level and quality of healthcare that people in big cities receive versus those in rural places," she said.
"Geographical location should not dictate whether someone has access to appropriate and timely medical treatment.
"There needs to be a focus on more funding and resourcing so that people in rural settings can access better medical care."
Originally published as The shocking city-country divide in wait times for hip and knee replacements