Preparation for a heart transplant at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona.kike corner
Practically at the same time that the name of the new Minister of Health, Mónica García, was known, the department has published the data on the waiting lists for June, figures that are updated at the national level twice a year. And it does not bring good news: for the fourth consecutive installment, Spain breaks the record of patients awaiting a surgical operation: 819,964, which is almost 26,500 more people than six months ago. The delay, however, is somewhat less, both to undergo surgery and to see a specialist.
Although it is not among its direct powers, this Government has set itself the task of reducing these lists, which, although they are a very imperfect measure of the state of public health (they do not cover all specialties and are subject to a certain accounting creativity by the communities) is one of the reference indicators. And what the new data says is that there is a lot of work ahead.
The average wait for a surgical operation was 112 days in June. It is an improvement over the 120 in December, but it is an almost identical figure to that of a year ago (113). The government agreement between PSOE and Sumar established a law so that no citizen has to wait more than 120 days. The statistics published by Health do not allow us to know how many patients exceed this limit, but they do indicate that 17.4% have to wait more than six months or, in other words, more than 180 days.
By specialties, among those measured, aesthetic surgery is the one with the longest delay (225 days), followed by neurosurgery (192 days), traumatology (133) and angiology (121). Those with the shortest wait are cardiac surgery (58 days), dermatology (66 days) and ophthalmology (68 days).
The autonomous communities in the worst situation in this category are the Canary Islands (153 days of average wait for an operation), Cantabria (152) and Extremadura (147). On the opposite side are Madrid (45 days), Galicia (66) and the Basque Country (68).
Waiting lists for a first consultation with a specialist (the only ones measured by this statistic) have improved very slightly. Now we wait 78 days on average, seven less than in December, but only one less than a year ago. The government’s commitment was that no one waits more than 60, something that happens to 51.6% of those on these lists.
This figure is very important because a bottleneck occurs here. The delay in seeing the specialist very often means a delay in the diagnosis, and where appropriate, more time for an intervention that may be necessary, which can also complicate the diseases. If, for example, a patient with a problem has cancer and does not know it, this wait will be critical. The tumor will grow without anyone knowing it is there.
The Health statistics do not include indicators of specialties such as mental health, which are very underfunded and for which the new Government has also set itself challenges: a maximum of 15 days for a first appointment for those under 21 years of age. At his inauguration, Pedro Sánchez went further, and committed that no Spaniard who needs psychological help will be left without access to it. This is something that, today, is very far from being real, despite the fact that there is no official statistic that measures it.
The Health report only includes 10 specialties. Those with the longest delay are neurology (118 days), dermatology (99) and traumatology (90). The least, digestive (54), gynecology (58) and cardiology (68). By community, the Canary Islands are also the worst in terms of waiting for consultations (an average of 123 days), followed by Andalusia (121) and Navarra (110). Those with the best figures are País Vasco (44), La Rioja (46) and Madrid (51).
Territorial inequalities are evident. Canarian citizens have to wait more than three times longer than Madrid residents for an operation and almost three times longer than Basque citizens for a consultation with a specialist.
The Federation of Associations for the Defense of Public Health reminds that these figures do not include how long one has to wait to see the primary care doctor nor the diagnostic tests, so the real delays are actually greater. In a statement, it calls for “urgent” measures to solve the situation and guarantee the quality and accessibility of healthcare in “a reasonable time.”
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