Elective surgery gets boost

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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Under increasing pressure from a growing backlog on surgical waiting lists, Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced an extra $10 million to fund more elective surgeries.

The money is expected to fund an extra 1800 surgeries over the next five months.

Nationwide, 280,000 people were told last year they required some form of elective surgery.

But 170,000 of them were not on a waiting list, according to research commissioned by the Health Funds Association of New Zealand and the Private Surgical Hospitals Association.

The Government had lifted the number of patients receiving elective surgery from 118,000 in 2007-08 to 158,000 last year, Ryall said.

"A third of the [new] operations will be orthopaedic surgery, including knee and hip-joint replacements.

"The rest will be a mix of general surgery, ophthalmology operations, including cataracts, and ears, nose and throat operations.''

Surgical waiting times have been a contentious issue over the past year, with the statistical battle gaining significant coverage.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Health show that over the past five years, elective surgeries increased by an average of more than 8000 a year. In the 2012-13 financial year, 158,500 people had elective surgery.

But ministry officials were forced to admit to Parliament’s health select committee late last year, they had no idea how many people had not been put on surgery waiting lists due to backlogs, because the data was not collected.

If a district health board confirmed it could provide treatment, it should provide that treatment within five months, the ministry said. That target will be reduced to four months from December this year.

DHBs have said they will be unable to place new people who qualify for surgery on waiting lists at all after that, because it is unlikely they’ll be able to perform the operation with the four-month target.

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said in Parliament yesterday patients across the country were in agony, having been rejected from hospital waiting lists, despite being told they needed surgery. 

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- Fairfax Media

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