It could take Rotorua and Taupō health authorities up to 18 months to clear a backlog of patients whose surgeries have been put off during the first month of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Between March 23 and April 27, a total of 416 elective surgeries with the Lakes District Health Board were deferred as part of alert level 4 restrictions. Of this, 32 operations were postponed at the request of patients themselves.
A health board spokeswoman said despite the deferrals, 191 essential or urgent operations were still carried out in Rotorua elective theatres during the lockdown. None were held in Taupō.
"Our recovery plan will include returning to the four-month target set by the MoH [Ministry of Health] and for some surgical specialities, this may take between 12 to 18 months."
The spokeswoman said there were long-term vacancies that had now been filled. However, the health board was now waiting for those specialist staff to arrive.
"This will help with our recovery plan as we already had an existing backlog due to high demand and vacancies," she said.
Maggie Bentley felt for those people on the elective surgery waitlist.
"I really do because you have to be in a lot of pain to even get on the list," she said.
"You don't go on the list for nothing, you can't fake it."
The Rotorua woman would know. She is waiting for a third knee replacement operation after two previous attempts did not go to plan.
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Bentley is currently nursing an infection. Once that is treated she will go in for the third operation. Because Bentley's surgery was "still in process", her case will be given preference over others.
"So I'm not really waiting for elective surgery still but many others will be. People will be having a tough time."
Bentley said she knew the situation was out of her control but she still felt guilty.
"Sadly, I knock someone else off. When I'm ready, whoever was booked in for that day gets bumped off."
Bentley hoped the lockdown meant fewer people having accidents, with those surgeries prioritised.
She said the hospital and staff had been a "well-oiled machine" during the lockdown.
Rotorua Age Concern manager Rory O'Rourke echoed this sentiment and said he was grateful to be one of those patients treated for urgent surgery.
The former Kaitao Intermediate principal was referred to Rotorua Hospital by his GP after O'Rourke sent him a photo of a suspicious mark on his head. After being called in for a closer look, O'Rourke was told he would need to go to the hospital for an urgent biopsy of the suspected melanoma.
"A week later I got the appointment, I went in and they did the surgery," O'Rourke said.
"Interestingly enough, the boy who did the surgery was an ex-student from Kaitao."
Once the test results were back, O'Rourke was told they didn't get quite enough and was called back for another operation on Monday.
O'Rourke said he was impressed at the proactive urgency to his situation, although it was an unusual experience.
"Getting into the hospital is completely different. You've got to get your temperature checked and sign in, etc.
"The hospital has been quite amazing."
In Tauranga and Whakatāne, 462 elective surgeries were deferred between March 25 and April 27. Another 445 urgent surgeries were carried out.
On Tuesday, the Government announced a one-off boost of $282.5 million over three years for a catch-up campaign including elective surgeries following Covid-19 disruption.
Health Minister David Clark said although hospitals were now returning to a normal level of service, it would take time to recover and deal with the backlog.
"We don't want people having to wait for care any longer than necessary. This extra investment in planned care will fund an estimated 153,000 surgeries and procedures, radiology scans, and specialist appointments over the next three years."
Last month, Radio New Zealand reported up to 30,000 elective surgeries had been put off nationwide.