Waiting lists

Today I got a call giving me a follow-up appointment at Child Development Services, so that we can get the official report about the assessment my daughter had a couple of months ago. It’s now ten months since her referral, and it’s good to be getting near the end of this process.

The only reason we’re getting in to see the development team only a couple of months after the assessment is that there have been several cancellations by people ahead of us on the list. People going away for Christmas has been the deciding factor on whether we get to see them before the New Year. It’s a bit sad, really, but lucky.

My daughter also has hearing problems, of a not-yet-quantified severity. Initial tests say that she has something like a 30-50% hearing loss, but we’re waiting for proper testing. The chance of that happening before the end of January are slim.

The thing that has bothered me about the processes we’ve been going through this year – hearing assessment, grommet insertion and checkup, audiologist referral, child development assessment and follow-up – is the waiting in the dark. Not knowing how long you will sit on the ‘referred’ list. It’s not easy, waiting and waiting for an appointment.

Government regulations state that the waiting lists must be six months long at the absolute maximum, and there are penalties for hospitals who do not meet this target. So the shadow waiting list emerged. The list of those referred to the various hospital services who are not officially on a waiting list, so they don’t break the rules, but exist in a grey area, waiting to see a specialist. Once these gatekeepers have been passed, the surgical or therapeutic wait time is often quite short – a couple of months, give or take. But it’s getting past the gatekeepers that’s so hard. They control the therapeutic/surgical waiting list size, and they have to be rather careful about it, so the institution isn’t penalised.

Appointments are now schedules only about 6 weeks in advance (which is why I’m pretty sure we son’t see the audiologist until the end of January or later), whereas when I was younger they would cheerfully hand you an initial appointment for eight or nine months in the future. I don’t know if this also related to the six-month waiting list rule. It was easier, in a way, to know that yes, they have you pencilled in. Instead, you get a letter confirming that they’ve received your referral, and then dead air until you get your letter giving you your six weeks notice.

Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I’d like to have some transparency in what is going on, and an honest look at what the waiting lists are really like. Artificially cutting them is not working – it’s just creating a pool of people waiting to get on the waiting list.

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