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Govt cuts thousands from surgery lists

Govt cuts thousands from surgery lists

National says it is appalling that more than 7500 patients promised surgery have been cut from waiting lists so that the Government can make waiting lists look shorter.

"This shows the lengths that the Government will go to prevent the public knowing how badly it is performing in health," says National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott.

"It is wrong that District Health Boards (DHBs) are in the position of having to take patients off waiting lists because they can't afford to treat them and to make the lists look better and, rather than because the patients do not need surgery," Dr Scott said.

Bay of Plenty DHB had the highest number of patients taken off the waiting list from January-December 2002, at 1803, followed by South Auckland Health, 1627, Waikato DHB,1590, Taranaki DHB, 1444, and Waitemata DHB, 620 (in six months). Other figures were Lakes DHB 232, Hawkes Bay DHB, 183, and many at Mid Central Health where a full break down was not provided.

"The large numbers being removed in smaller areas like the Bay of Plenty, Taranaki are of most concern, but the figures are obviously also very high in South Auckland and Waitemata, where we have large numbers of people in the most need.

"Most of the patients removed were waiting for hip or knee replacements, cataract removals, hernia repairs, and gynaecological operations. These people are suffering pain and losing quality of life, and they can't afford to go private for surgery.

"Taking them off waiting lists is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The price to society is time off work, more social welfare benefits paid out, and for the patients more GP visits and medication costs.

"The Minister of Health can't claim to have reduced waiting lists significantly when people are simply taken off the list to alter the numbers. Patients expect the improved health service Labour promised but instead, as these figures show, it is getting worse," said Dr Scott.

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