Health board finds cash to cut operation waiting lists

The Canterbury District Health Board has found an extra $1.7 million to allay the worst effects of bumping patients off waiting lists.

The board last month sent more than 5000 patients back to their GPs under Health Ministry orders to cut hospital waiting lists to procedures that can be completed in six months.

Yesterday the board acknowledged it could have handled the issue better and apologised to patients for some instances where surgeons had not been involved in selecting patients to be referred back to their doctors.

News of the extra funding came as a letter was released from 74 of the board's 80 surgeons, criticising the ministry's waiting list policy.

Board chief executive Gordon Davies said he regretted that some surgeons had not had time to review the patient lists.

Mr Davies said he apologised to "patients adversely affected where this would not have been the case if appropriate procedures had been followed".

The board had agreed to $1.7 million of additional funding to deal with the most urgent surgical and medical cases affected by the policy.

The extra money came from an end-of-year "underspend" and was available this year only.

"It equates to an extra 188 to 200 more people being treated," Mr Davies said.

If necessary, the money would be used for operations in private hospitals.

Meanwhile, the letter from the board's surgeons says they accept that health care funding is limited.

"However, the relative level of funding for the provision of health care for patients in our community and who require surgical care in particular is not adequate," they say.

"Compliance with this directive from the Ministry of Health will deny many of our surgical patients the benefits of modern surgery and force them to continue to live with worsening disabilities and in some cases undiagnosed and untreated conditions including tumours that will lead to premature death."

- NZPA

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