Fresh data on healthcare waiting times expected in a month

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Ljubljana – For the past two months the Health Ministry has been analysing health care services in 2020 and 2021. Long waiting times have been confirmed as the bane of Slovenia’s healthcare with Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan warning about many errors in the IT system. They now aim to obtain up-to-date data in a month.

Having completed the analysis on the situation in 2020 and 2021, the ministry reaffirmed at Friday’s press conference that Covid had had a major impact on health care services and their access.

What also stood out was the numerous errors in the IT system and cases where individuals had multiple referrals for the same services, which the minister found most surprising.

To tackle long waiting times, the ministry has appointed a task force that will be presented in the coming days.

Alenka Kolar, acting head of the healthcare digitalisation directorate, said there were many discrepancies and errors in the system, for example, a patient waits 1,676 days for an orthopaedic check-up.

She announced they would first comb through the data and try to find out how many people are waiting for a certain procedure and with which provider. Errors will be remedied.

Patients bear part of the responsibility for the current situation, Kolar said, as they sometimes fail to show up for appointments, meaning someone else cannot get their slot, or they do not want to undergo surgeries in summer as they would like to go on holiday.

Some are also waiting for the same services at multiple providers in what is yet another irregularity to be put right. Bešič Loredan said the ministry did not want to point fingers at anyone, but stressed it was wrong if patients do not cancel their appointments in the event they cannot make it.

Aleš Šabeder, former health minister and current acting head of the ministry’s office for oversight, quality and investment in healthcare, said that relevant rules would be changed, so that the office can monitor the waiting lists. From September, it will also have the power to sanction any violations.

The ministry is already implementing an action plan adopted at the beginning of July that aims at improving the exchange of data in an online system for making medical appointments, Bešič Loredan said. In December, the ministry intends to start preparing a strategy to reduce waiting times.

The health care system will need to be significantly upgraded in the coming years compared to the pre-Covid year 2019 to ensure access to services for all, the minister said, adding that long-Covid rehabilitation was another issue to be tackled.