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Auckland MP Says Answers Needed Over Heart Surgery

There are more questions than answers over why heart surgery waiting lists are growing in Auckland, and what authorities are really doing about it, Auckland Green MP Keith Locke said today.

Yesterday Mr Locke asked a supplementary question in Parliament to Health Minister Annette King: "Does the minister agree that Aucklanders do not have the same access to heart surgery as other New Zealanders, in the light of figures showing that Canterbury and Otago have halved the number of people waiting for more than six months while for Auckland the figures have quadrupled; if so what is the Government doing about it?"

Cabinet Minister Trevor Mallard, replying for Ms King, said little other than "Yes", in reply, but earlier during question time he said: "I understand from initial reports that there is capacity at Green Lane Hospital and if that is so then the Health Funding Authority will contract for some extra operations with Auckland Healthcare Services Ltd."

Mr Locke said he wanted to hear more about why the extra capacity had not been utilised earlier, why it had to take media reports before the issue was taken seriously, and when real action would be taken to really address the waiting list.

The issue reached Parliament after various media reports including a Christchurch Press story on Tuesday headed 'Bypass wait puts heart surgery patients in peril'. A Radio New Zealand report said about 137 patients, four times as many as last year, had been waiting more than six months for elective bypass surgery.

Green Lane's head of cardiology Dr Warren Smith was quoted in the article saying patients with heart disease could not afford delays. "The risk that people could die is always there with cardiac surgery and that is only going to increase as waiting times increase," he was reported saying.

Today Mr Locke said he would be putting pressure on the coaltion government to ensure the problem was addressed urgently.

Keith Locke MP 04 4706710


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