David's knee is stuck in surgery limbo

PATIENT PATIENT: David Jordan needs a knee replacement but has been told he can’t go on the waiting list yet.
PATIENT PATIENT: David Jordan needs a knee replacement but has been told he can’t go on the waiting list yet.

Richmond man David Jordan was first told he needed a knee replacement six years ago, but he can't see that happening any time soon.

His knee problems began more than 20 years ago when he tore some cartilage playing badminton. He thinks he stepped forward to play a backhand shot.

"I ended up in a screaming heap on the deck. It was pretty bloody painful at the time."

As he was covered by ACC, Jordan underwent private surgery to fix the injury. It did the trick for a while, but in 2008 the knee started deteriorating again, and his doctor told him he would need a replacement at some stage.

Due to a mix-up with Jordan's records, ACC has ruled out a second operation. Jordan is partially covered by a health insurance plan provided through his wife's employer, but even a small percentage of the operation's cost is too much for his family to cope with.

This leaves him at the mercy of the public health system.

The Ministry of Health defines elective surgery as a medical or surgical service which will improve the quality of life for somebody suffering from a significant medical condition, but which is not required immediately.

The most common surgeries carried out at NMDHB last year came under the umbrella of general surgery, with orthopaedics a close second. Orthopaedics covers the musculoskeletal system, including knee or hip replacements.

Health insurance industry body, the Health Funds Association New Zealand, estimates a total knee replacement like the one Jordan needs will cost between $15,300 and $28,000.

It is serious surgery which replaces the knee joint with artificial metal or plastic replacement parts.

Jordan said the initial opinion from a specialist was that he was too young for such a procedure.

Now that he is 58, he has been told the time is right.

But after applying again to the NMDHB for the surgery six months ago, he was told that he did not meet the criteria.

"Unless you're pretty much in a wheelchair, you don't make the requirements these days."

Jordan said that he was regularly kept awake by pain in his knee if he walked the family dog more than three kilometres or so. He was diligent about sticking to his exercise plan.

"I'll be limping quite badly, my knee's getting painful and then it aches for the rest of the night."

The pain did not yet interfere with his work as a vendor and serviceman for point-of-sale equipment, but if he was on his feet a lot, he knew about it later.

"It feels like someone's poking a hot knife in the side," he said. "I've got no cartilage left in the knee joint, it's basically just bone rubbing on bone."

The Nelson Mail