By Margot Taylor

A Mosgiel man says his life has been put on hold as he waits for an urgent heart operation which has been postponed six times due to a lack of beds in Dunedin Hospital's intensive care unit.

Merv Telfer, 79, said the Southern District Health Board told him in a letter in May he would have an urgent double-or more-heart bypass and heart valve replacement within 30 days of the dental scan he had on May 11.

Telfer's wife Adele said the hospital would have received the scan results by May 16. However, what followed was not an operation but "lots of stress".

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Telfer was admitted for the operation on July 5 and discharged on July 6 and then admitted and discharged again on July 10.

Following that, four other dates were set for the operation but each was cancelled because no beds were available in intensive care, where he would have to be treated following the major procedure.

"I have got right up to having the lubrication in my nose for the tubes to go in before it is cancelled."

While he and his family were becoming increasingly worried about the additional wait for the urgent procedure, they believed their case reflected a wider problem, Telfer said.

"We haven't gone public to push our case up the list, it's just to emphasise how bad it is."

He believed the problem was a lack of funding.

"When I was waiting in a five-bed ward, three of them had been bumped out and re-admitted again for the same thing."

His daughter, Bridget Telfer, said the family also felt for the medical staff, who had been "extremely helpful".

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"These highly skilled professionals [are] sitting there twiddling their thumbs because they can't operate on people."

While Telfer felt OK at the moment, fear of his health declining had started to keep him awake at night.

"Your life goes on hold."

Specialists had told him it was important he had the operation as soon as possible or the three-month recovery could become even longer, he said.

The family had been advised the operation might happen on Thursday but Telfer was preparing for it to be postponed again.