Arthritis stricken, denied operation
Unable to move beyond his house but rejected from surgery, Woodville man John Ellis blames himself for being too honest about his acute arthritis and not gaming the system.
The 72-year-old expected to be looked after by New Zealand's public health system after finally admitting his arthritis was so severe he could not play golf, reach the telephone before someone hung up or walk beyond his property.
"I thought I would go in, be assessed, be put on a waiting list and they would do the worst first," he said. "The bedridden and Zimmer frame people and then my turn would come round, but down the track a letter came."
That letter, from MidCentral Health, told Mr Ellis that "as a matter of fairness" he would not be treated and could seek assistance privately.
"I've gone from being an absolutely active person - golf and bowls several times a week - to just pottering about," he said. "I've got two speeds now: very slow and stop.
"It's depressing when you've been as active as I have been, now I just shuffle about and that's all I can do.
"I've had to cut all the backs out of my shoes so I can get my feet in because I can't put them on otherwise."
Research commissioned by the Health Funds Association of New Zealand found 280,000 people were told last year they needed elective surgery, but 170,000 of them were not on a waiting list.
Health Minister Tony Ryall's national health target is for no patient to wait on an elective surgery list for more than five months.
Mr Ellis was referred for a specialist appointment in 2012 by his GP, who had growing concerns about his mobility.
"I didn't overstate my case," he said. "The [specialist] said to me ‘you've got to be either bedridden or on a Zimmer frame'.
"I think he was conditioning me to the fact that maybe I wasn't going to be seen in the immediate future, but I didn't expect to not even be put on the waiting list for surgery."
Mr Ellis said the system was broken for his case to be set aside when he constantly struggled with everyday tasks.
"I think I didn't make a big enough fuss and that's where I went wrong," he said.
"Apparently, you can bypass the waiting list by badgering them and overstating your case - I know for a fact they are operating on people more mobile than me."
Constantly in pain, Mr Ellis had been re-referred to the specialist by his doctor to try again.
MidCentral District Health Board was unable to answer questions about surgical waiting lists in time for today's edition.
However, a spokesman said: "While we are not familiar with the particulars of this gentleman's case, if his situation has deteriorated since his referral in 2012, we would encourage him to return to his GP and request a re-referral to hospital services."