Maximum timeframes set for non-emergency healthcare
Proposed changes to legislation concerning public health and specialised health care within the National Health Project stipulate the maximum time patients will have to wait before receiving non-emergency treatment at a health centre or hospital.
Under the new regulations, patients will be entitled to be told when they can expect treatment, and the reasons for any change in the schedule that may occur. Patients will be able to contact health centres immediately they need to. They will be able to receive an assessment of their needs for non-emergency treatment from a healthcare professional, not necessarily a doctor, within three days of contacting a health centre, unless the matter can be dealt with by phone counselling. Access to non-emergency medical or dental treatment will be assured within three months.
Specialised healthcare needs will be assessed within three weeks of receipt of a referral by a healthcare unit, for instance a hospital polyclinic. Specialised non-emergency medical treatment and dental treatment will be available within six months of treatment needs being assessed.
Mental health care for children and young people will be available within three months following a needs assessment by mental health services, unless medical or care circumstances demand otherwise.
If individual or groups of municipalities cannot arrange care or treatment within the prescribed timelines, they will have to arrange for it elsewhere or from the private sector, and without any increase in charges to patients.
The changes to legislation, due to take effect in March 2005, are aimed at cutting waiting lists for non-emergency treatment.