Patient says waiting lists 'tailored'

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2014
bill wright
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

WAITING GAME: Bill Wright has been bumped off the waiting list for knee surgery despite being told he would need it to improve his quality of life.

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South Canterbury District Health Board elective surgery waiting lists are being tailored to meet maximum waiting time aims, a concerned patient says.

Pleasant Point man Bill Wright was told in April he had osteoarthritis and needed both his knees replaced.

However, he said he was told in October by the hospital's coordinator of elective services he did not qualify for publicly funded surgery and might have to consider alternative treatments.

He took his concerns to Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew.

"She responded by telephone telling me that unfortunately the Government could not fund every case and, inter alia, repeating the myth that for those in need things were becoming easier.

"She concluded by suggesting that any problems with surgical waiting lists were the fault of the previous government."

He said she did not mention the fact people were being removed from waiting lists en masse to vindicate the Government's policy that all who have made the list are dealt with within four months.

"I understand the financial constraints, but have trouble reconciling government priorities on the disbursement of taxpayer funds."

Mrs Goodhew was not available for comment.

South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) chief executive officer Nigel Trainor said the system for surgery was based on clinical prioritisation.

"If a patient meets both the clinical and financial thresholds, then the DHB will give that patient a commitment to treat within five months," Mr Trainor said.

"Currently, 669 people have received that commitment which is an increase from the same time last year of 570."

He said the waits depended on individual cases; the more urgent cases had a minimal wait while the less urgent may wait up to five months.

"Last year, the less urgent may have waited for up to six months as this was the requirement at that time," he said.

Mr Trainor said wait lists were not tailored to suit wait times.

"Wait lists are established from patients who meet the service threshold which is based on a combination of matching current clinical demand for access to a procedure to current capacity to meet that demand," he said.

"Two important questions guide the specialist in making the decision: how urgent is your need for treatment and how much will you benefit from it compared to other people.

"DHB's are required to have nationally recognised prioritisation tools in place to make sure the decision-making process is fair and clear.

"For a patient, this means assessing their clinical need and attributing a score that is then matched to the service capacity score.

"Those patients that exceed the capacity score are accepted onto the wait list and those that do not, are given a care plan. Most are discharged back to the GP for ongoing care."

Mr Trainor said the threshold score was reviewed regularly and the score didn't change when demand for service exceeded capacity and vice versa.

"The score has remained the same at the SCDHB for the past 12 months," he said.

"This process enables those with greatest need to be treated first, not first in first served."

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Mr Wright has researched his options of alternative treatment.

"Contrary to this suggestion, there are no alternative treatments, unless one takes this to mean privately funded surgery. Otherwise, there is only increasingly extreme methods of pain relief and loss of quality of life."

- The Timaru Herald

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