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Surgery Stories And Govt Spin Don't Match

Frustrating Surgery Stories And Govt Spin Don't Match

New Zealanders will struggle to believe any of the Government's talk about 'steady progress' being made in the area of elective services, when all around there are stories about people waiting too long for surgery, National's Associate Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott said today.

"Over the last couple of weeks we learned of the frustrated stories of nine-year-old Jasmine Craven who has been told she has to wait two painful years for a major back operation, and 64-year-old Jean Billinge whose condition is growing worse as she waits for a heart bypass operation.

"Last weekend Auckland orthopaedic surgeon Mark Clatworthy came out and said that people 'have to have 20 percent worse pain this year to get surgery than you needed to have to get surgery last year.'

"On top of this, Lakeland Health reported on Tuesday that the number of patients waiting longer than the specified time for general elective surgery has quadrupled in the last two years."

Dr Scott's comments come as the Ministry of Health today released the Elective Services Third Quarterly report 2000/01.

"Within the report there are some alarming trends. The number on active review, or the waiting list for the waiting list, has increased by over 1,100 in the last quarter. The number of new outpatient referrals has increased while the number actually being seen has decreased.

"This year we have seen an increase in the number of people waiting longer than six months for first specialist assessment, going from 38,580 in first quarter of 00/01 to 43,664 in the third quarter of 00/01. The increase in the number waiting for cardiology, dental, dermatology, endoscopy, gynaecology, orthopaedics and urology services is particularly concerning.*

"What's more, the total number waiting for first specialist assessment by provider has increased considerably from 131,436 to 148,000 in the last year.

"The Minister of Health failed to achieve extra funding for elective services in the Budget. In her own words she warned of 'extremely unpalatable results', and let's not forget that the consequences are worse given that the cost of providing these services has clearly increased.

"The report suggests growing problems with the delivery of elective services. Couple that with projected DHB deficits of over $200 million this year, and it highlights real problems brewing in the health sector," Dr Scott said.

Ends
* page 21 of the report


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