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Health For Members

Patients in Vienna face long waits for specialist health appointments

Julia Hjelm Jakobsson
Julia Hjelm Jakobsson - [email protected]
Patients in Vienna face long waits for specialist health appointments
You have to wait long for an appointment in Vienna. Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

Waiting times to get appointments with health specialists in Vienna have increased significantly, a new study has revealed.

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Accessing essential healthcare within a reasonable timeframe is becoming increasingly difficult for Viennese residents.

The Vienna Medical Association presented their new study this week which shows that waiting times for appointments with health specialists have increased significantly in recent years.

The study, which involved contacting over 850 doctors' practices via so-called "mystery calls," revealed that child and adolescent psychiatry currently had the longest waiting times in the city.

Patients can expect to wait an average of 90 days for an appointment.

Other specialisations where patients have to wait long to receive help include radiology (57 days), neurology (45 days), ophthalmology (44 days), pulmonology (36 days), internal medicine (33 days), and dermatology (28 days).

The waiting time for seeing a gynaecologist has increased fourfold since 2012, with patients now waiting an average of 32 days.

READ MORE: Why are there fewer public sector doctors in Austria?

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No new patients accepted

In certain specialist areas, there is no capacity to accommodate new patients. The situation where no new patients are accepted occurs particularly often in paediatric practices, where more than half of the public healthcare practices have put a freeze on admissions.

In child and adolescent psychiatry, 40 percent do not accept new patients, and among gynaecologists, it is almost a third (30 percent). Family doctors also struggle with welcoming new patients, and many of their practices have already reached full capacity.

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The Medical Association calls for immediate action, urging the health insurance sector to become more attractive and receive better funding. This could involve measures to incentivise doctors to work within the public system, potentially reducing wait times and improving patient access to care.

During the study presentation, Johannes Steinhart, president of the association, described the increased waiting times as the result of neglect within the established health insurance sector. He said he believes that the public health system is massively endangered.

Naghme Kamaleyan-Schmied, chairwoman of the Curia of the resident doctors in the association, pointed out that while the population of the federal capital has grown by 16 percent since 2012, the number of public doctors has fallen by 12 percent in the same period.

The association now wants to make the public healthcare system more attractive to doctors, which could cut down waiting times and make it easier for patients to receive care. The association's demands for this to happen include increasing flexibility in contract options, integrating health and social professions in individual practices, reducing bureaucracy, and improving fees.

ÖGK, Österreichische Gesundheitskasse, Austria's largest public healthcare fund, is currently creating 100 additional public health positions, with almost two-thirds of the positions already having applicants, as well as planning for another 100 positions. They also aim to create a central telemedicine service and a platform for making appointments by phone and online, which is meant to reduce waiting times and improve access to care.

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