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Referred elective surgery need just the tip of the iceberg

March 7, 2016

Referred elective surgery need just the tip of the iceberg

The Health Funds Association (HFANZ) says the Government has made a good start in measuring the unmet needs of New Zealanders referred for elective surgery, but stresses that this subset of unmet need is part of a much bigger picture.

Government figures released today show thousands of New Zealanders are going without the surgery they need due to an overloaded public health system.

“While measuring referred unmet need is important, it is just a small slice of total unmet need,” HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said.

In 2013, HFANZ conducted research which indicated that while around 110,000 New Zealanders were officially waiting for elective surgery, there were another 170,000 requiring surgery but who were not on any list.

“These are people who need surgery and may be in pain, but whose GP has not referred them on the basis that they are unlikely to meet the public sector threshold to get it within four months.

“Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is right when he says that the best way to meet unmet need is to carry out more surgeries. Growing demand for elective surgery needs to be addressed and one way of doing this is to improve access to elective surgery via health insurance,” Mr Styles said.

“New Zealand has a strong public health system that deals well with emergency, maternity, mental health and life-threatening conditions. The private health sector complements this system by relieving pressure for elective procedures and in a more timely fashion.

“Our members’ message to Government is simple: the private health sector is here to support, not undercut, the public system,” he said.

“Elective surgery wait times do not need to get worse before they get better.”

HFANZ said health insurance had funded more than 150,000 elective surgical procedures in the past year, but with increased demand, there was the capacity and the willingness to do much more.

Results from HFANZ’s 2016 research into this need will be released later this month.


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