Hospitals are falling behind last year's performance with doctors likely to perform 10,000 fewer surgeries, claims Simon Bridges.
Ministry of Health figures showed district health boards were not on track to meet their planned annual elective surgery target — 200,895 according to the ministry — the Opposition leader said.
Just over 105,000 patients had been discharged from hospital after undergoing elective surgery in the first nine months of this financial year. For all of the previous year, there were 149,000 patients.
By that logic, Bridges argues the number of discharges by the end of March should have been just under 112,000.
"When you add this to at least 1500 cases that Health Minister David Clark said were cancelled due to the junior doctors' strike in April, the number of unperformed elective surgeries is almost certain to be about 10,000 fewer by year's end."
The affected procedures included cancer, cardiac and neurosurgery operations, Bridges said.
"District health boards are currently 179 cardiac surgeries behind where they should be. It would be a tragedy if anyone was to die while waiting for an operation that should have been performed by now."
Meanwhile, figures for acute surgeries so far were similar to the same time last year showing district health boards hadn't been swamped with extra emergency surgeries.
Health Minister David Clark told the Herald on Sunday people were missing out on planned care as a result of the junior doctors' strikes, which was why he was urging both DHBs and the Resident Doctors' Association to urgently reach a resolution.
"Addressing a decade of underfunding, and the erosion of pay and of conditions for our health workforces is not going to happen in one Budget or a single bargaining round, but we are making progress."
He said it was too early "to say where we'll end up with these numbers" — he'd been told rates were at 98 per cent of planned levels at the end of March.
Collective elective statistics were also affected by the Government's expectation more procedures like Avastin injections and skin lesion removals were performed in "more appropriate settings", such as outpatients and in primary care rather than in surgical environments, Clark said.
He'd also been told there are data collection delays.
The ministry added: "Latest data to March shows delivery of 145,270 discharges against a plan of 148,363. Therefore 2 per cent, or 3093 discharges behind plan ytd [year to date] March," the ministry wrote in an email to the Herald on Sunday.
Bridges said Labour had called for "more to be done" while in opposition, but hadn't mentioned elective surgery in its election manifesto and then removed targets at the first opportunity. Clark confirmed last year the coalition Government had dropped the National Health Targets, in which data was collected and published on the performance of district health boards in areas including elective surgery.
The 10 targets were introduced by the Labour-led Government in 2007 before being reduced to six by National in 2008, were dropped because they were creating "perverse outcomes" for patients, Clark said.