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Patients Die Waiting for Minister to See Reason


Patients Die Waiting for Minister to See Reason

Revelations that patients are dying waiting for cardiac surgery are not surprising, ACT Health Spokesman Heather Roy said today.

"Hospitals throughout New Zealand are currently under particularly strong pressure to cut costs, as most new health funding is tagged for the new primary care strategy. This does not allow hospitals to cater adequately for those currently in need of secondary or hospital services.

"The main area in which hospitals are able to save is that of elective surgery, which is why we are now seeing increased numbers on waiting lists.

"At Greenlane Hospital in Auckland 60 heart patients have waited for more than six months for surgery. In Wellington the number is 84. Christchurch Hospital has 120 heart patients approved for surgery and waiting to be given an operation date.

Under the stewardship of Annette King, our health system is failing these patients. What is ignored is the cost of waiting - both in monetary and human terms. With timely surgery, heart patients can go back to productive lives. Without it, they are left on waiting lists to deteriorate, sometimes to the point where surgery will no longer be of benefit. The subsequent cost to taxpayers is greater for medication and inpatient care than it would have been for the original surgery.

The ACT Patient Guarantee policy addresses this problem by advocating that where a public hospital cannot deliver surgery within an acceptable and safe timeframe, the private sector should be used. When Wellington's cardiac surgery was contracted out to private Wakefield Hospital, the waiting list went down to eleven.

The World Health Report 2000 (produced by the World Health Organistion) concludes, "It does not matter whether the public or private sector provides the service, so long as public funds and resources are used efficiently for optimum outcomes".

The Minister of Health is not prepared to look at the option of private provision because of her philosophical difficulty with private enterprise. Ms King would obviously rather have patients languish on lists than see reason," Mrs Roy said.

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