This article was written by Stephen Forbes, Local Democracy Reporter, for Stuff.co.nz National. Published May 6, 2022. To access the original article, click here.
A south Auckland woman says Health Minister Andrew Little’s announcement this week that he would establish a special taskforce to address DHB waiting lists, is too little too late, after waiting four years for an operation.
Malany Turner is now in recovery after undergoing a diagnostic laparoscopy this week to once and for all establish if she has endometriosis, after suffering from years of debilitating pelvic pains.
The 31 year-old Pukekohe resident said hearing that the Government was only now planning to set-up a taskforce to address the massive backlog of DHB waiting lists was a surprise.
“It’s probably a sound idea, but I think it’s probably a little bit too late,” Turner said.
She spoke to Local Democracy Reporting in October last year after more than three years of setbacks and delays.
Turner called Counties Manukau Health in August for an update and was told her surgery had been postponed because of the alert level 4 Delta lockdown.
She was then called in January and her operation was re-booked for March, but then the impact of Omicron saw her surgery delayed once again.
But Counties Manukau Health called her back and managed to reschedule her surgery this month.
She said the staff at the Manukau SuperClinic went above and beyond to make sure she was comfortable and she’s now recuperating at home.
“I don’t think it’s been the fault of the doctors or the nurses, but it’s been a failure of the system,” she said. “I think in my case I’ve probably been affected because my condition wasn’t as urgent as others. But it’s been really frustrating.”
DHBs around the country had to resort to postponing non-urgent surgical procedures and appointments since Omicron hit New Zealand. But, as with previous Covid-19 outbreaks, it has led to a blowout in their waiting lists.
Figures released by Counties Manukau DHB last month showed thousands of planned operations and appointments had been cancelled due to Omicron.
In an announcement on Wednesday, Health Minister Andrew Little said the government would establish a new national taskforce to tackle the backlog in hospital waiting lists, and cut the time people who need operations and appointments have to wait.
It will help hospitals take whatever short-term measures they can to reduce waiting times, and will be responsible for delivering a national plan by September.
According to Little the number of people waiting four months or more for a specialist consultation had grown to 36,000 nationwide in March.
The backlog of people who had been waiting more than four months to access treatment had grown from 8000 in February 2020 to 27,000 in March this year.
“I expect a national review of all waiting lists and a reassessment of the situation of everyone on it,” Little said.
“I have been told that if we try to approach this problem in the ways we have before, it could take between three to five years to clear the planned-care backlog,” he said.
“It is my expectation that we can clear the backlog in considerably less time than that.”
Counties Manukau Health clinical director of hospital services, Dr Vanessa Thornton, said it supported the Government’s focused and deliberate approach to address the backlog in waiting lists.
“A national approach will help capitalise on regional successes that could be scaled up to benefit more people.”
Thornton said at the end of March Counties Manukau Health had 4024 patients waiting over four months for a first specialist appointment and 1039 patients waiting for elective surgery.
Health Minister Andrew Little were approached for comment for this story.