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More than 104,000 wait to see health specialist in Qld

The number of Queensland patients waiting longer than clinically recommended to see a specialist in public hospitals has surged more than 80 per cent to 104,000 in a year, according to the auditor-general.

The Queensland Audit Office also revealed ambulances lost 134,155 hours waiting to transfer patients into hospitals in 2021/22, a rise of more than 20 per cent over the previous year.

Auditor-General Brendan Worrall's report revealed outpatient services and ambulances are being hampered because the health system had reduced capacity to meet growing demand.

Emergency department presentations rose on 1.5 per cent to 1.7 million in 2021/22, compared to the previous year, the report said, while ambulance incidents rose by the same percentile to 924,000.

Mr Worrall said the rising demand is due to Queensland having the fastest population growth in the nation, an ageing population, an increase in complex emergency presentations and mental health conditions and the impacts of COVID-19.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath indicated the suspension of elective surgeries by national cabinet in 2020 and COVID-19's impact contributed to delays in specialist wait times.

She said both had a significant impact that was felt all across Queensland.

"We are investing significantly to lift up that recovery," she said on Wednesday.

"We've seen a 6% increase in the amount of elective surgery we did in the last quarter compared to the previous quarter. So the hospital and health services are making a difference. They are seeing an improvement, but it's going to take some time."

Health workers took more sick leave and those who weren't sick worked more overtime during the year, while about 1700 also took special paid leave while they had their request for vaccine exemptions assessed.

The cost of that leave totalled $18 million with about 593 of those who accessed it no longer working for Queensland Health.

Ms D'Ath said the government followed appropriate processes with workers who opted against vaccination but was disappointed with the costs it entailed.

"What we asked of them was not unreasonable," she said.

"We ask our health workers to be vaccinated for a range of vaccinations. COVID is now one of those normal vaccines as far as employment conditions, and we do have a duty of care to keep this community safe."

The cost of COVID-19 on the state's public health system was about $1.37 billion over the year, the audit report said, with the department expected to lose $267.3 million from obsolete inventory, a surge from the $44.9 million in write-offs in 2020-21.

The inventory losses included $195 million for rapid antigen tests that were due to expire before being used.