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Wait-emata: heart patients turned away

Hon Tony Ryall
National Party Health Spokesman

1 June 2006

Wait-emata: heart patients turned away

Patients suffering chest pains and blackouts are no longer being seen by Waitemata DHB as the squeeze on elective surgery tightens, says National’s Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

Documents released to National under the Official Information Act show that Waitemata DHB is routinely refusing to see patients deemed sick enough to have an operation, and is culling patients regardless of their priority for surgery.

The documents were sent to the Health Ministry by Waitemata's CEO Dwayne Crombie in response to the Government's edict to cull hospital waiting lists. That edict demanded that DHBs cull their waiting lists or suffer a financial penalty.

"It's getting harder and harder to get seen by a specialist or to get surgery at hospitals all over the country,” says Mr Ryall.

“Waitemata is telling the Government they are ‘respond[ing] by raising thresholds’. This means patients have to be sicker to be seen.

"It's now so bad that heart patients are being ignored and sent back to their GP. Women with mild incontinence are being turned away as well.”

The papers also show:

- Cardiologists are concerned about turning away some patients.

- Patients are culled regardless of priority if they have waited more than 12 months.

- Insufficient analysis of waiting list loads.

- A third operating theatre that would relieve pressure cannot proceed because of budget constraints.

"Waitemata's CEO is today reported as saying that the only way Waitemata survives ‘is because more of our people go private’.

"The harsh reality is that Labour's waiting list cull is forcing patients into paying for their own operations. When you can't even get hospital care after suffering chest pains and blackouts, that's a very worrying day for our public health system.

“National says the electives crisis could be solved with smarter use of the private sector, greater involvement of specialists and doctors, cuts to the half a billion dollar bureaucrat wage bill, and a focus on value for money,” says Mr Ryall.

ENDS

See... Link - OIA Papers (PDF)

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