The new regional government run by the Partido Popular-Ciudadanos centre-right coalition has accused the previous Socialist-run Andalusian authority of hiding the true extent of health service waiting lists in official figures.
Regional Health minister, Jesús Aguirre, said on Tuesday that at the end of last year there were 843,538 people waiting for an operation or a specialist appointment with the SAS (Andalusian health service), 548,000 more than the figure offered by the previous government.
Of those half a million "hidden" patients, nearly 100,000 are in the province of Malaga. The Health Department's delegate for this area, Patricia Navarro, said on Wednesday that in June last year, the Socialist government reported just under 60,000 people on waiting lists in the province, whereas the real figure offered by the new government is more than 156,000.
The discrepancy appears to lie in the fact that the previous government did not include patients whose condition or treatment did not have a maximum waiting limit. Neither did the previous figures include patients who had not yet been given a date for their appointment, specialist-to-specialist referrals or patients who had been sent for treatment at private hospitals when their wait was about to exceed the maximum time allowed.
According to the new figures, patients in Malaga province have to wait on average 332 days for an operation, a figure significantly higher than the 68 day average quoted by the last regional government.
Of the 30,730 people currently in line for an operation, 7,397 have been waiting for more than a year, according to the current SAS figures.
In the case of outpatient appointments with specialists, 136,387 people are waiting in the province of Malaga, with an average delay of 132 days. This waiting time was previously reported to be 51 days for a total of 50,566 patients.
To solve the waiting list problem, the regional minister announced an emergency injection of 25.5 million euros between now and the end of the year. The funds will be used to increase the number of operations carried out, reach an overtime agreement with health professionals and refer patients to private hospitals which have contracts with the public service where necessary. Of the 25.5 million, 15 will go towards contracts with private facilities.