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Morawiecki: “We have significantly shortened queues to specialists.” Which ones?

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Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki boasts that queues to specialist doctors have been shortened, but he cites only three treatments as examples. The overall data shows that it is much worse.

On Wednesday, September 20, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited the Independent Public Health Care Center in Przytyk in the Masovian Voivodeship. At a press conference organized in front of the building, he talked about the situation in the health care system, including queues to specialist doctors. His statement on this topic is available on the official account of Law and Justice on the X platform quoted like this: “We have significantly shortened the queues to specialists. This was a pain in the past. We will continue to shorten this procedure to get help as quickly as possible. During the opposition government, you sometimes had to wait for years to get to specialists, for example, such as cardiologists.”

As we checked on recording from this conference posted by the Prime Minister’s Office, Mateusz Morawiecki did not actually say that “we have significantly shortened the queues to specialists.” His full statement on this subject was: “What interests people most? Shortening queues to specialists. Here, ladies and gentlemen, it is directly proportional and parallel to the number of doctors. After all, we need to attract doctors to shorten queues in an aging society. And we are shortening these queues. In the case of cataracts, we have shortened the waiting time by 60 percent, even in the case of very difficult ones – knee arthroplasty (actually arthroplasty – ed.), hip – the waiting time has been shortened by 60 percent. It is still too long, I know, and we will continue to shorten it.” .

He also recalled his conversation with Deputy Minister of Health Waldemar Kraska, who told him that “queues to cardiologists have been significantly shortened to a really short time of just a dozen or so days from the huge queues that existed before.” In the entire, over eight-minute speech, Morawiecki did not use the phrase “torment from the past”, which was used in the entry.

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So we checked whether the United Right government actually shortens queues to specialists and why Prime Minister Morawiecki chose specific benefits for his statement.

The waiting time to see specialists is longer

Data on the average waiting time for a visit to specialists and for guaranteed health services and diagnostic tests is collected by the Watch Health Care Foundation (WHC Foundation). In its Barometers, WHC shows the situation in health care “as seen through the eyes of the patient, and not through the reporting of the National Health Fund.”

Average waiting times for individual services are determined on a random sample of at least six healthcare providers from different regions of Poland for each service. “The average waiting time in general for Poland is calculated on the basis of all several hundred indicator services from all areas. Waiting times are verified in over 1,500 medical facilities contracted with the National Health Fund, which translates into exceptionally high precision and objectivity in monitoring changes in waiting times in queues. “- writes the foundation.

The Prime Minister said that those in power are shortening queues to specialists, but WHC Barometer data show the opposite. According to the last one report in November 2022, you had to wait 4.1 months (4 months and 3 days) to see a specialist. This is over a month and a half longer than in October and November 2015, when PiS took power, because then waiting time was 2.4 months (2 months and 12 days).

On the above chart You can see that the average waiting time started to increase at the end of 2016. At the beginning of 2019, the waiting time to see a specialist was on average four months. In 2020, the tests were canceled due to the turmoil related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and after they were resumed in September 2021, the average waiting time dropped below three months, although some restrictions were still in force. However, the latest research from November 2022 showed that the situation is similar to the one before the pandemic and the average waiting time to see a specialist is the longest since PiS took power.

Benefits from the Prime Minister’s speech: shorter queues

Therefore, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, in his speech in Przytyk, mentioned three examples of specific benefits for which queues were shortened during the PiS government. These include cataract removal, hip replacement (stable case) and knee replacement (urgent case). This is not the first time that the head of government has focused on these three measures. We verified his statements on this subject in Konkret24, among others. In December 2018 and August 2019.

It is therefore not surprising that the Prime Minister boasts about the waiting time for these three benefits: the queues for them have actually shortened. According to the WHC Barometer, in October/November 2015 you had to wait an average of 18.5 months (over a year and a half) for cataract removal, and in November 2022 it was an average of 1.4 months (one month and 12 days). For hip arthroplasty in a stable case in October/November 2015 it was an average of 44 months (3 years and 8 months), and in November 2022 it was an average of 25.7 months (2 years and a month). For urgent knee arthroplasty in October/November 2015 it was an average of 11.9 months (11 months and 27 days), and in November 2022 an average of 4 months. Additionally, the Prime Minister mentioned shorter waiting times for a visit to a cardiologist. In October/November 2015, the waiting time for this specialist was on average 3.9 months (3 months and 28 days), and in November 2022, on average, 3 months.

Staged treatment and National Health Fund plans

Queues for specialist doctors and queues for medical services such as cataract surgery, although mentioned together by the Prime Minister, are in fact not the same. The authors of the WHC Barometer write about this indirectly, analyzing the phenomenon of staged treatment using the example of knee arthroplasty.

And so: in order to undergo a prosthesis implantation procedure, a patient with a bad knee must first make an appointment with a primary care physician, who will refer him or her to an X-ray examination and issue a referral to an orthopedist. The patient will have to wait on average three months to see this specialist. The orthopedist will refer him to an MRI, for which the average waiting time is two and a half months. Then the patient may be qualified for a prosthesis implantation procedure, for which he or she will have to wait an average of 20 months in a stable condition, i.e. one year and eight months. In total, after waiting for a visit to a specialist, for tests and for the procedure itself, the average patient will be operated on after 26 months, i.e. two years and two months. That is why it is crucial to shorten not only the queues for medical services, but also the specialists themselves, who are the only ones who can refer you to specific tests and treatments.

Stages of waiting for knee arthroplasty (November 2022)Watch Health Care Foundation, WHC Barometer No. 01/11/2022

The Prime Minister mentioned his conversation with the Deputy Minister of Health, meanwhile the National Health Fund (NFZ), which is subordinated to the ministry, is aware of the problems with long queues to specialist doctors. In November 2022, “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” informedthat the National Health Fund, together with the Patient Ombudsman, are preparing solutions to improve the situation of patients who want to get a consultation. “The proposals include creating a system for controlling how clinics and hospitals report available dates to doctors. Today, they sometimes indicate dates as yesterday or in five years,” the journalists reported. In their opinion, after the changes, the directors of the provincial branches of the National Health Fund would monitor the situation and, in the event of too long queues in individual facilities, check the reasons for them. Mysterious patients from the fund and the Office of the Patient Ombudsman would also appear at the clinics. “In the event of inaccuracies between the date provided on the website and the actual date available at the facility, the National Health Fund or the RPP could initiate administrative proceedings and financially penalize the entity,” the daily described the planned changes.

The system that the National Health Fund plans to improve has been in operation since 2018 Information about Treatment Dates. Everyone can check how long they have to wait for a selected medical service in a given voivodeship, city or specific facility.

Main photo source: Paweł Supernak/PAP

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