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Only the tip of the waiting-list iceberg

Hon Tony Ryall National Party Health Spokesman

13 April 2006

Only the tip of the waiting-list iceberg

Many hundreds of sick New Zealanders are being dumped from waiting lists every month as the elective surgery crisis worsens, says National's Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

"The culling of Hawke's Bay's specialist waiting list is just the tip of the iceberg. Elective surgery is in crisis, and patients have to be sicker and sicker to get an operation," says Mr Ryall.

"Mr Hodgson is making a complete hash of this issue. He is flailing desperately, with no idea of what this means to thousands of suffering New Zealanders.

"He needs to admit that Hawke's Bay DHB told his officials last week about the plan to dump 1,800 off the waiting list. His closest advisers knew, yet he says he did not. If he really didn't know about it, there is a major problem between him and his advisers.

"The Minister must apologise to clinicians around the country for his attack on their integrity on radio this morning. He called some clinical decision-making 'unethical'. How could anyone in this Government accuse someone else of being unethical?

"We need to back our medical workforce, not have a beleaguered minister attack them for 'unethical' behaviour as they try to deal with sick patients and very limited resources for elective surgery. No one can recall a time when a Minister has called specialists 'unethical' for trying to help people.

"The current focus is on Hawke's Bay DHB publicly culling patients from the waiting list for first specialist assessment. This is happening in many DHBs, with Canterbury having culled 2,000 people in the past year.

"And it will only get worse as a result of the Government's recent edict to key DHBs to cut their waiting lists.

"What's needed is a stronger focus on making the health dollar go further with less bureaucracy, supporting and involving the medical workforce, and greater co-operation between public and private services to get elective surgery waiting lists down," says Mr Ryall.


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