No long surgery waits, but staff will struggle

BRONWYN TORRIE
HEALTH REPORTER
Last updated 07:40 17/08/2012
HUTRyallweb
SIMON EDWARDS
Wait over: Health Minister Tony Ryall shares a joke with knee replacement patient Glenys Thomas and cancer surgery patient Gordon Page at a celebration of cuts to New Zealand’s elective surgery waiting lists.

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Kiwis will not wait longer than four months for elective surgery, Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

The tightening of elective surgery targets will force district health boards to ensure people do not wait longer than five months for surgery by next year and four months the following year.

Mr Ryall visited Hutt Hospital yesterday to award a certificate for it having no patients waiting more than six months to see a specialist or have an operation.

Seventeen out of the 20 district health boards had met the six- month target at the end of June, he said. Capital & Coast was one that failed, but was on track to meet the target in the next quarter.

Hutt Hospital anaesthetist Peter Tobin said staff had done a lot of extra work and come in at weekends to meet the target, and shortening the waiting time would put additional pressure on "struggling" doctors and nurses.

"It's been a real struggle to get to six months and I don't think any of us are looking forward to the five months and the four months . . . but we'll do our best."

George Page, 60, had a carcinoma cancer growth taken off his bottom lip this week. It was diagnosed a month ago and he had to travel from Nelson, as he required specialist reconstructive surgery.

"It was all really quick," he said. "I just think about how good it is to be in a country where we are looked after."

A year ago there were 5700 people around the country who were not seen or operated on within six months, Mr Ryall said.

"I'm here today to let you folks know that, right across the country, we've got that 5700 down to 800 people and, if we take out Canterbury . . . we've now got that down to just over 130 people . . . waiting more than six months.

"These operations are actually needed by people - hip replacements, cataracts - life is completely different after these operations happen."

He said the Government had invested about $2.5 million to help district health boards create systems to speed the process up.

"They tell me there are probably only 1500 to 1800 people waiting more than five months at the moment across the country, so I think with a tailwind we should be able to make the five months."

Contact Bronwyn Torrie
Health reporter
Email: bronwyn.torrie@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @brontorrie

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- The Dominion Post

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