Thousands not on list: Grey Power

By Sandra Conchie

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Health Minister Tony Ryall says elective surgery funding has increased in every Budget. Photo/File
Health Minister Tony Ryall says elective surgery funding has increased in every Budget. Photo/File

Grey Power is preparing to bombard the Government with examples of "failures" in its elective-surgery programme.

Grey Power Western Bay of Plenty president Christina Humphries said while the Government claimed the waiting list was getting shorter, thousands of people could not get on the list.

"We all know what happens to people's situation when things go really bad, it becomes an emergency situation and some people die waiting," she said.

Mrs Humphries said Grey Power had been conducting a national survey asking people to share their stories, particularly those turned down or shuffled between their GP and a specialist.

More than 100 examples had been collected of people struggling to get surgery, including 25 locals, and the survey was ongoing, she said.

Grey Power is calling for improved access to elective surgery and shorter waits for treatment. "We can't even look after our own working folk or older people who have all paid their taxes to receive vital health care services," she said.

In February, the Government announced it would be spending $110 million over the next four years to boost the number of elective surgeries, including the Bay of Plenty District Health Board receiving more than $500,000.

Jo Millar, chairperson of Grey Power's Health National Advisory Group, said elective surgery waiting lists had been selected as Grey Power's key health election campaign issue.

Ms Millar said Grey Power was also surveying GPs and encouraging members to grill every party's election candidates about what they intend doing to address the problem.

Te Puke man Alan Pram, 73, considered himself one of the lucky ones as he managed to get on a waiting list twice since he was told he needed hip surgery in August/September last year.

Mr Pram said he was supposed to have surgery at Whakatane Hospital in December, but it was deferred as he has a heart murmur but he is now back on a waiting list at Waikato Hospital.

"I've been told I could have to wait up to six months. It's quite frustrating. The reality is if I could stump up with $20,000, I probably could have the surgery privately in a week or two," he said.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the Government had made hip, knee and other elective surgeries a priority, increasing funding in every Budget. "More patients are being given surgery than ever before and in a shorter timeframe."

Mr Ryall said in the Bay of Plenty elective surgeries had risen from 6250 in 2007/2008, to 9000 in 2012/2013 - 2750 extra people each year.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief operating officer Helen Mason said elective surgery was administered on a "maximum time allowed" system, which meant the operation would be done within five months of the patient being told they would be treated.

As of January 1 next year, the timeframe would be reduced to within four months, she said.

Ms Mason said the DHB had exceeded its target for elective surgeries in 2014 by 193 operations or nearly 10 per cent.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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