A Taranaki man was dismayed to be declined a specialist appointment to check a growth his GP thought could be cancerous.
After inquiries by the Herald the Taranaki District Health Board has now changed its position and booked Darryn Sunnex in to be seen tomorrow.
The 54-year-old automotive service manager from Hawera noticed a small bulge on the right side of his neck about a month ago.
He went back to his GP after antibiotics did nothing and it grew from about 0.5cm to 2cm in a week.
"He was actually quite concerned and said there's not much more I can do, we need to refer you to a specialist for an MRI and needle biopsy," Sunnex said.
"He said it could be a number of things, it could be a cyst, it could be a cancer growth, we don't know."
Sunnex is ex-military and has hearing and other medical issues, and cannot afford the high premiums for health insurance.
He therefore chose to go through the public system. Eventually Taranaki DHB sent back a letter - he didn't meet the clinical threshold for a first appointment.
"I was expecting a few weeks' delay before I got an appointment. Not to be told, 'No, go away'.
"You have a person dealing with possible cancer growth - shit scared, basically, as to what the hell is going to go on. You are scared. And the family are the same. We just want to know what it is."
Sunnex booked in with a private specialist, and prepared to pay more than $1000 for a scan plus the other fees.
He contacted the Herald after reading about delays at Counties Manukau DHB that contributed to a young girl losing some of her sight.
A lack of capacity at the same health board has also seen hundreds of referrals for skin conditions rejected.
However, in an initial response Taranaki DHB said capacity was not a reason for Sunnex's referral being declined.
"We believe he was graded appropriately based on the referral information received by his GP ... a follow-up assessment with his GP has been advised."
After the Herald inquiry the DHB contacted Sunnex on Friday and, he said, told him they hadn't realised the lump had grown substantially in size.
He has now been booked in and will see a specialist tomorrow morning.
A DHB spokeswoman said the appointment was made after follow-up consultation with Sunnex and his GP.
"Following this the DHB received updated information regarding his referral and has booked him an appointment."
Sunnex still wanted to speak out as he believes other New Zealanders will face similar battles to access treatment.
"How many other cases like mine are there?" he said.
Fair Care investigation
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Stories published so far include:
• A young girl lost sight while languishing on a waiting list, as the DHB involved warns pressure on services remains "very real and concerning".