170,000 on 'de facto list' for operations

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014

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Alongside hospital waiting lists for elective surgery, a "de facto" list of people unable to even get on the waiting list is causing concern.

In New Zealand last year 280,000 people were told 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.

Those who could not make the list still had issues which caused them to suffer "quality of life reductions and to require assistance".

New Plymouth man Nick Taylor is concerned he needs to be in a wheelchair or on crutches before he will get a hip operation.

At the end of last year he saw his surgeon and had a review of his hip, which involved a questionnaire to see if he had enough points to go on to the waiting list, he said. "The number I got was only half the amount needed to go on the list.

"He told me that to actually get on the list you have to be on crutches or in a wheelchair."

Mr Taylor said his hip was not getting any better.

"If in three or four months' time if it gets worse, but I don't need crutches or a wheelchair, how do I carry out my work?"

The Taranaki Daily News was unable to contact Mr Taylor's surgeon but Taranaki District Health Board clinical services manager Lee McManus said the threshold for hip joint replacement had decreased over the past 12 months.

Patients were assessed by a consultant and if they met the requirements they were placed immediately on the waiting list.

And if the patient met the threshold, the operation would be done within five months as per ministry requirements, Ms McManus said.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said there was a "de facto" waiting list of "those people waiting for the waiting list" but there were no official figures to indicate how many people were on the de facto list.

"It is very clearly one area the Government doesn't seem to be interested in having any data on.

"It's data cleansing. You don't record because it's inconvenient to record. That goes back to central Government, not the district health board."

Mr Powell said it was true the number of non-urgent operations had increased.

"But demand is also increasing and it's not quite matching."

Labour Party health spokeswoman MP Annette King said district health boards around the country were sending out letters to thousands of desperate patients saying that while their GP and specialist had recommended surgery - and they would benefit from it - they did not meet the threshold for an operation.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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