One in eight sick Queensland kids are waiting for surgery longer than the clinically recommended time.
One in eight sick Queensland kids are waiting for surgery longer than the clinically recommended time.

The shockingly low number of surgeons for kids

ONLY 16 paediatric surgeons are working in Queensland as thousands of children wait for operations.

Queensland Health data shows 2592 children were waiting for surgery at the Queensland Children's Hospital at the end of last year.

The hospital failed to treat one in every eight kids waiting for general surgery within clinically recommended times.

Medical Board of Australia data shows that Queensland has 1189 specialist surgeons working in public or private hospitals.

They include 16 surgeons specialising in paediatrics, 96 in urology, 102 in ear, nose and throat surgery, and 337 in orthopaedic surgery for hip or knee replacements.

Queensland has 48 brain surgeons, 43 heart surgeons, 75 plastic surgeons, 46 vascular surgeons, 38 oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and 387 general surgeons.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons executive director for surgical affairs, Dr John Quinn, yesterday denied there was any shortage of surgeons.

"You could double the number of surgeons and waiting lists would stay the same,'' he said. "The operating theatres are running to capacity and the beds are full.

"We also need ancillary staff like nurses, radiologists and anaesthetists.''

One in eight sick Queensland kids are waiting for surgery longer than the clinically recommended time.
One in eight sick Queensland kids are waiting for surgery longer than the clinically recommended time.

Dr Quinn said having only 16 paediatric surgeons, who specialise in operating on children, was "about right''.

"There's no shortage of surgeons,'' he said.

An investigation by The Sunday Mailand The Courier-Mail has revealed a blowout in public hospital waiting lists, with the number of patients queuing for surgery rising 7 per cent in the past two years to 56,176.

In public hospitals, Queensland Health recruited twice as many pen-pushers than doctors in 2018/19.

Queensland Health hired 415 extra doctors - taking the total to 9945 - while boosting managerial and clerical staff by 765 to 18,911.

An extra 1099 nurses were hired, to total 34,153.

 

AMA president Dr Tony Bartone. Picture: Gary Ramage
AMA president Dr Tony Bartone. Picture: Gary Ramage

 

Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said there was no shortage of surgeons.

"Beds are the issue,'' he said. "It's more of an infrastructure issue than a workforce issue.

"State and federal governments will tell you they are spending more than ever before, and so they should because the population is growing and ageing.''

Spending on public hospitals in Queensland, per person, has soared by two-thirds in a decade, from $1671 per person in 2008/09 to $2803 in 2017/18.

But capacity has remained at 2.5 beds for every 1000 people.

Queensland public hospitals spent $9 billion on staff salaries in 2017/18.

WAIT FOR SURGERY IS 'JUST CRAZY'

FOR more than two years, Dalby man Greshen Murphy has been waiting for surgery to repair nerve damage from a cancer operation.

Dalby resident Cheshan Murphy. Picture: David Martinelli
Dalby resident Cheshan Murphy. Picture: David Martinelli

"I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2017; I had my prostate removed in early November that same year,'' he said.

"After several follow-ups with the doctors after the surgery for the removal, I was diagnosed with erectile dysfunction caused by damage to the nerve endings during surgery.

"I was referred to the Princess Alexandra Hospital to see another specialist urologist - this took almost eight months to obtain an appointment, which was then cancelled for another two months.''

Mr Murphy, 53, finally saw the specialist last April, and was told he would have to wait up to 18 more months for surgery.

"I was flabbergasted and explained that I have been waiting for so long now,'' he said. "It's just crazy - it shouldn't take this long for an operation to happen.

"This is emotionally draining on myself, as well as my wife.

"It's disgusting it has taken this long - where is all the money going?''


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