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The city's Regional Hospital is once again the fourth health facility in Andalucía with the longest delays for operations. SUR
Hospital waiting lists for surgery and consultations worsen in Malaga and this is where you will face the longest delays
Health

Hospital waiting lists for surgery and consultations worsen in Malaga and this is where you will face the longest delays

The province has the highest number of patients waiting for a first appointment, with an average wait of 132 days

Iván Gelibter

Malaga

Tuesday, 23 April 2024, 12:25

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Waiting lists are continuing to increase in the Andalucía region, especially in Malaga province, despite promises from the Junta's public health authorities to improve the situation.

Both waiting times for surgery and to see a specialist have worsened in Malaga province in the past year, new data shows. A recent report for December 2023 which was released on Monday 22 April showed a delay of just over four months.

The regional ministry of health unveiled two types of data, surgical waiting lists and consultation waiting lists. According to the data on appointment wait times, Malaga has a total of 31,974 people waiting to undergo surgery, 30% more than a year earlier, but the same as six months prior. However, the average number of waiting days is considerably worse, having risen from an average of 135 days to 160, almost a month longer.

The hospital with the longest delay is the Regional Hospital of Malaga, whose average delay is 239 days, 39 more than six months ago, according to the data. This adds up to a total of 5,243 patients waiting longer than set out by the Junta de Andalucía. In total, as of 31 December 2023, there were 11,640 people on the waiting list. This makes the health facility the fourth worst in Andalucía, only surpassed by the University Hospital of Jaén, the Juan Ramón Jiménez Hospital in Huelva and the Torrecárdenas University Hospital in Almería. In Seville, the most populated province in the region, the centre with the longest waiting time is the Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío, with an average waiting time of 173 days, the data shows.

Returning to Malaga province, the former Carlos Haya is followed by the Antequera Hospital (151 days average delay); the Costa del Sol Hospital (134 days); the Axarquia Hospital (104 days); the Virgen de la Victoria Clinical Hospital (96 days); and the Serrania Hospital, has a delay of 80 days. In all of them the average waiting time has increased, according to the data, although it is clear patients at the Regional Hospital are clearly at a disadvantage compared to the rest, as they are waiting at least three months longer to undergo surgery.

First queries

Although on other occasions the waiting lists for a first consultation in Malaga were also worrying - but not as dramatic - the situation has worsened. According to official data, in December 2023 there were 219,855 people waiting to see a specialist, which is 12,500 more than the last report. Malaga is the Andalusian province with the most people on this list. Seville, with a larger population, has 50,000 fewer patients.

This means the average waiting time for a consultation has risen from 107 to 132 days, the data reveals. This situation is worse in Granada, Huelva and Jaén provinces than in Malaga, although with very different population figures.

The Hospital de la Serranía in Ronda has the longest delays, with an average of 144 days to see a specialist. Delays at this health facility have practically doubled in a year and a half, when the average was 81 days, according to the data. It is followed by Malaga city's Regional Hospital (with an average delay of 109 days to 140 days), which is now in second place. The Hospital Clínico is next with 136 waiting days, followed by the Hospital Costal del Sol (130 days), the Hospital de la Axarquía (98 days) and the Hospital de Antequera, which has a waiting time of 73 days. All hospitals in Malaga province - without exception - have worsened, both in terms of volume and waiting days. In the comparison with the rest of Andalucía, Malaga comes out slightly better in surgery wait times.

Suspension of appointments

According to the data (both in the last report and data of six months ago), the situation is particularly worrying in the main hospital in Malaga province, the Regional. Far from taking measures to solve the increase in waiting lists, the centre announced in November the elimination of at least 300 hours of continuity of care, which was criticised by the medical union. The cut will save about 70,000 euros per month, but doctors said will result in waiting lists blowing out even more.

In the union's view, the reason for this is the "economic underfunding" of the Malaga Regional Hospital, which lacks the more than 800,000 euros it is trying to save. "The current directors of this hospital centre took up their posts when the budgets were already closed, but if the managers of the SAS do not adequately fund the Regional Hospital, we will continue with unseemly waiting lists that the people of Malaga will suffer unnecessarily," the union said.

Meanwhile, at the end of February, the regional ministry of health announced a shock plan with an investment of almost 300 million euros, while acknowledging - without the data being made public yet - waiting lists had blown out again in the December balance sheet after a negative result in June last year.

The Health Guarantee Plan launched by the Junta will involve an investment of 283.3 million euros in its first phase with the aim of "significantly" reducing surgical wait times within the guaranteed procedures (90, 120 and 180 days). They said that, once implemented, the region will reduce the number of patients outside of the decree by 60% this year.

According to the regional ministry, the increase in waiting lists is due to four factors. Among them is the "reactivation" of healthcare activity after the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2022, there were 640,911 more consultations and in 2023, there were 494,576 more, they said. "As a consequence of the latter, there is an increase in recommendations for surgical procedures," they added.

In 2022 the number of people prompted to have surgery increased by 9.58%, which meant 38,610 more patients were added to the surgical waiting list than in 2021. In 2023, the increase compared to 2022 was 1.42%, with 6,249 more patients.

The Junta said another reason is due to the "serious shortage" of healthcare professionals, which has meant that in specific areas, such as anaesthesiology, it is "practically impossible" for the Andalusian Health Service to find workers to replace those who are on sick leave or rest periods. Recently, several organisations linked to the healthcare sector pointed out that one of the main causes of a lack of workers is due to the working conditions in Andalucía being among the worst in Spain, with many leaving to work in other regions and countries.

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