HEALTHPLAN MAGAZINE

Spanish Health Cuts Increase Operation Waiting Times Health News

If you're unfortunate enough to be awaiting an operation with the Spanish National Health Service you will know that waiting times are increasing. This has been a problem that has been compounded over the past four years or so, thanks to emergency spending cuts throughout the country. The bad news is that the situation does not seem to be improving.

Accessing the Family Doctor

In 2014, 74% of citizens in the Valencia Region were unable to get an appointment with their family doctor overnight in public health centres, and nearly 10% had to wait up to two weeks for an appointment. Appointment times do vary across Spain, with some areas such as Asturias, managing to find 62% of patients an appointment overnight. The Balearic Islands fare the worst, just 20% of residents can access an overnight appointment.

Long Waits for Surgery

Those in need of surgery also face long waits. In December 2012, the Ministry of Health noted that the average waiting time for a non-urgent operation was 100 days, and that had risen sharply within just 6 months, from 76 days.

More recent Government data about hospital waiting lists for operations in the country show that the situation is getting worse. Efforts have been made to reduce waiting times for surgery, and yet in actual fact, waiting times are longer than ever. While regional governments have been trying to avert the crisis by allocating more budget to hospitals, and creating plans that aim to cut down on waiting times for surgery, nothing has improved. This in spite of the fact that the number of people who are served by the National Health system has been reduced by half a million residents over the past four years.

If you need an operation at this current moment in time, you are liable to have to wait 89 days on average, two days more than you would have in 2014 and 13 more than you would have waited in June 2012.

Again there are regional differences. Residents in the Canary Islands will most likely wait for an average of 175.9 days, and those hapless residents of Asturias? They can expect to wait approximately 144. Residents of the Valencia Region can expect to be called in for their operation after 120 days or so. But there are also specialism differences, with the wait for neuro-surgical-type operations waiting the longest, at 160 days, and those patients awaiting Plastic Surgery waiting for 1325. Traumatology meanwhile has a waiting time of 112 days.

Why Is the Wait So Long?

The question is why is the waiting time so long? Well, at this moment in time there are 549,424 patients in total who are awaiting non-urgent procedures, in one of the 14 different speciality departments. This is 37,501 more patients in need, than in December 2014 and 12,513 more than in June 2012. Given the reduction in the number of residents eligible for the National Health system, the waiting lists can only be explained thanks to the cuts in the healthcare budget which amount to 7 billion euros.

It is unfortunate for the Government that when it comes to public health, the situation is worse than when it took over from the previous government. It seems that the cuts in the healthcare budget by 7 billion euros have had a hugely negative impact on patients' waiting times and the system in general. The Government imposed the cuts to both health budgets and staff numbers as part of an ongoing program to save money and strengthen the country's public finances.