Medical Association alarmed

Extreme waiting times in Vienna’s statutory health insurance surgeries

16.05.2024 11:39

Waiting times in Vienna's statutory health insurance surgeries have increased significantly in almost all specialties in recent years. Waiting times are particularly long in the fields of child and adolescent psychiatry and neurology. This is the result of a study commissioned by the Vienna Medical Association, which was presented on Thursday. The Medical Association is therefore sounding the alarm and urgently calling for the health insurance sector to be made more attractive and better financed.

In the study carried out by opinion researcher Peter Hajek, a total of 850 panel doctors' practices from various specialties in Vienna were contacted between 5 April and 6 May by means of mystery calls - i.e. covert test calls. The results showed a massive deterioration compared to a similar survey in 2012. Waiting times are by far the longest in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry, where the median wait for an appointment is 90 days. (This area was not specifically surveyed in 2012). In a neurology specialist practice, it is 45 days (in 2012 it was 33).

Extreme increase for ophthalmologists
There has been a particular increase in waiting times for ophthalmologists, where the average wait for an appointment is 44 days (2012: 9) and 36 days (5) in specialist pulmonary practices. The waiting time for gynecologists has quadrupled (32/ 2012: 8). The waiting time for dermatologists is 28 days (7), for radiologists 57 days (32) and for internists 33 days (12). Waiting times in orthopaedics (7/2012: 8) and in psychiatry (37/36) remained almost the same as in 2012.

The fact that no new patients are accepted at all happens particularly often in pediatric practices: More than half (54 percent) of SHI-accredited medical practices have a freeze on admissions. In child and adolescent psychiatry, 40 percent are not accepting new patients, while the figure for gynecologists is almost a third (30 percent). Around one in three GP surgeries is also working at full capacity.

Head of the Medical Association: "Alarming result"
Johannes Steinhart, President of the Medical Association, described the "frightening" results of the study as a consequence of the neglect of the private practice sector. The public healthcare system is massively at risk, he warned at the press conference. While the population of the federal capital has grown by 16 percent since 2012, the number of panel doctors has fallen by 12 percent in the same period, complained Naghme Kamaleyan-Schmied, Chairwoman of the Curia of Registered Doctors at the Vienna Medical Association. She called for the long-promised "patient billion" just for Vienna.

President of the Medical Association Johannes Steinhart (Bild: APA/EVA MANHART)
President of the Medical Association Johannes Steinhart

"It's 5 to 12", Kamaleyan-Schmied warned politicians. With a view to the National Council elections, the Medical Association deposited its demands under the motto "Let's go" in a symbolic emergency case. In it, the doctors want, among other things, an extension of the start-up bonus for all open practices, support in the start-up process, greater flexibility, for example in the form of partial health insurance contracts, integration of healthcare professions and social professions in individual practices, less bureaucracy and better fees.

The Medical Association does not think much of the SPÖ's idea of obliging elective doctors to also treat patients at panel rates if there is no specialist appointment for them in the public healthcare system. Instead of pressure and threats, the working conditions should be made so attractive that young people are drawn to the system, according to the President of the Medical Association.

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