16 years of pain trying for a diagnosis

Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014

FAILING: Having seen the standard of treatment in the UK, I can say that the New Zealand system is not good enough.

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Is NZ's health care system good enough?

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We asked readers to contribute their views on New Zealand's health system. Vickie Ferns shares her experience getting treatment for a liver condition.

I believe the NZ health service is in an appalling state. 

I spent 16 years trying to get good care for my liver condition. 

I was constantly told I could not go to hospital for severe pain as I would be sent home. 

I spent $1500 a year on medical expenses at the GP getting morphine injections from nurses, which I could only afford once a day. If the bout of pain went on for more than a week I couldn't keep going down, so I would remain in pain. 

On one occasion I went back to the GP telling him I was still in severe pain after two months and asked what he could do about it. He shrugged his shoulders. 

I even went to the UK to try to get a diagnosis but ended up on the wrong team, as it had not been clearly explained to me that it was not chronic pancreatitis.

When I came back to NZ I was again told, by a different GP, to try not to go to hospital. 

My specialist didn't even check to find out what had happened in the UK. 

While I was in the UK I had kept in touch with my liver specialist in Auckland and if it was not for him fighting my side I would probably not have a diagnosis today. 

It all came to a head when I was sent up there for tests and discovered my Wellington specialist had sent a report contrary to what I had been telling the doctor. 

I ended up in hospital when I got back.

They gave me medication and then had a security guard escort me off the premises. He felt bad as he had been told I wouldn't need a wheelchair and he could see I could barely walk due to the pain. 

I went back into hospital on the Monday morning and was treated much better. My specialist came to see me on the Tuesday and was visibly upset at his mistake. 

I was going to put in a complaint to the health commission, as it was 16 years of hell, but I know they are working to improve their service. 

I do have a diagnosis now after a liver biopsy. At some stage I will need a liver transplant. 

I am now allowed to go to hospital for severe pain. 

I rarely get check ups even though I am so sick, whereas a few years back it would have been every three months. 

I can compare the service I get in New Zealand with the UK and the UK win hands down. They were prepared to keep doing tests even after two surgeries had not stopped the pain. 

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To get a test at Wellington was very difficult indeed. It's true that my disease has not acted by the book, but that is not the point.

I do find it hard to change my behaviour here and actually go to hospital when I am in severe pain. I am inclined to put up with it whereas in the UK, I knew I could go. 

I do feel sympathy for the doctors as they are under so much pressure. 

New Zealanders need to have a discussion on how much per head they want this country to spend on health. 

I think taxes should be raised by a small amount so a better service can be given. Most New Zealanders want everyone to have their health issues dealt with, however small, and for there to be no need for charity hospitals. 

People should also not be parked up on benefits if a surgery needs to be done, it's much better for them to be cured and working.

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