THE constant flow of patients from under-resourced regional New South Wales hospitals to the city has clogged up the health system and made the state's elective surgery waiting lists the longest in Australia.
Latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics show patients must wait an average of 49 days for elective surgery in NSW, compared to a 28-day delay in Queensland.
It takes 290 days to get a knee replacement in NSW - one-third longer than the national average of 194 days.
You had better not be in a rush if you want your tonsils taken out.
Patients in NSW wait 233 days for a tonsillectomy; more than double the 99-day national average.
Data is yet to be released for Grafton Hospital's elective surgery statistics last financial year.
However, it performed better than most of the state in 2012-13.
The average waiting time for tonsil removal was 106 days, while ear, nose and throat patients were on the waiting list for 87 days.
Lismore Hospital's emergency department waiting times were among Australia's worst 10% last year.
Its elective surgery statistics were less distressing, with 99% of patients receiving urgent surgery within 30 days in 2012-13.
Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said the waiting list blow-out would only worsen if the State Government refused to properly fund allied health workers who could treat patients at home.
"Allied health is seen as a luxury item, which it isn't, and is always the first to go," he said.
"The State Government's view is that privatising is more efficient.
"That's not correct. It shifts the issue but does not address the flow-through problem.
"If you can't get people out of hospital beds, you can't get them into hospital beds.
"There's a lack of investment in regional areas, which means patients with serious issues are transported to Sydney and other cities.
"It just creates this huge bottleneck."
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson said funding cuts meant it would only get worse.
"Waiting times for elective surgery are only going to go from bad to worse if Mike Baird continues to refuse to stand up to Tony Abbott and his plans to cut $15 billion in funding from our hospitals," Opposition Leader John Robertson said.
"We know that Tony Abbott's GP tax will send an extra 500,000 people to emergency departments across the state - with many predicted to be unable to cope with the increase."
AVERAGE WAITING TIMES
New South Wales - 49 days
Queensland - 28 days
Western Australia - 29 days
South Australia - 35 days
Victoria - 35 days
Tasmania - 45 days
How long NSW is waiting:
Knee replacement - 290 days (national average 194 days)
Tonsil removal - 233 days (national average 99 days)
Cataract removal - 218 days (national average 79 days)
Hip replacement - 191 days (national average 106 days)
Ear, nose and throat surgery - 131 days (national average 70 days)
Ophthalmology - 175 days (national average 69 days)
Orthopaedic surgery - 104 days (national average 66 days)
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