If you are awaiting a knee operation in one of the hospitals of the Camp de Tarragona Health Region, you should know that the average waiting time to be operated on –with data from last February– is 201 days. Or if you are a patient waiting for a hip replacement, you will have to wait 197 days.
If what you are waiting for is to be visited by an allergist in Camp de Tarragona, you have an average of 149 days ahead of you to see this specialist. Or if you are from Terres de l’Ebre and have requested an appointment with the ophthalmologist, the delay will be extended by 105 days.
These are some examples of how the surgical and specialist visit waiting lists are in the province of Tarragona as of February 2022. Comparing these figures with those of a year ago (March 2021) we can conclude that -in general terms- the delay time has been reduced. It is true that in the case of operations there are cases in which they are the same or have increased slightly, but it is also true that the average waiting time has been reduced in many specialties.
However, there are cases -such as knee (201 days) and hip (197 days) interventions in the Camp de Tarragona- that fail to comply with the maximum terms guaranteed by law from CatSalut, which are 180 days in both cases.
As far as visits to the specialist are concerned, most reduce waiting times. In the case of Camp de Tarragona this happens in six of the eleven specialities, while in Ebre it happens in nine.
After a few difficult months, these numbers could lead us to optimism, but the Metges de Catalunya union prefers to be cautious. Josep Maria Serra, president of the concerted hospitals sector of this union, explains to the Diari that “to really assess whether the waiting lists have been reduced or not, you have to look a bit with perspective. The previous two years were pandemic years and with Covid, outpatient consultations and operations were reduced. So it is logical that if no activity was generated or it was less, the waiting lists have decreased.
In any case, and although there was a reduction in activity, Serra points out that “in Camp de Tarragona, in the initial months of Covid, nothing was done, but at the end of 2020 and during 2021 there were centers that operated on some pathologies such as cataracts or hernias. In addition, a hospital such as Joan XXIII or Sant Joan de Reus is not the same as that of El Vendrell or Pius de Valls.
As of today, and with the worst of the pandemic already over, health activity is recovering. In this sense, Serra points out that “with the increase in activity and its recovery, it is likely that the lists will increase because more and more people will visit and operate more. So you have to wait a while to see what happens. What was not diagnosed during the pandemic will come to the fore now and we will need about six months to see what happens.
In addition, from the Metges de Catalunya union they are convinced that “with the increase in activity, and when we return to 100% normality, problems that we had prior to Covid will surface, such as the lack of professionals – such as anesthesiologists, essential to operate – or the lack of specialists that will cause the waiting lists to increase”, explains Serra.
The lack of doctors is a problem that has dragged on public health for years. On this subject, the president of the Metges de Catalunya concerted hospital sector recalls that “we have been hearing the mantra for a long time that there is a lack of doctors, but from Metges de Catalunya we have tried to objectify it to know how many we are and how many are missing, but we have always had problems , because the administration does not have reliable data, it recognizes that it does not have them updated».
However, Josep Maria Serra does not believe that the problem of the waiting lists will be solved only with more doctors, «it would be very simplistic to think this, because it is a complex problem and it does not require simple solutions. To begin with, we must consider what health model we want, what we are investing in. It will also depend on the number of professionals you have and how the resources are redistributed from Salut so that there is territorial equity.
For their part, sources from the Tarragona Official Metges College have confirmed to the Diari that they have found “a decrease in waiting lists”, but they also recall that “there is still a remnant of patients due to the pandemic.”