Kiwis with postponed elective surgeries now face long wait

Nicole Bremner
Source: 1News

Thousands of patients who've had elective surgery postponed by Covid-19 are now facing long waits for surgery.

Even though clinical staff at district health boards around the country have done their best to maintain surgical schedules, postponements have been unavoidable.

DHBs cite preparations to receive and treat Covid-19 patients, delays getting staff here from overseas and the deployment of frontline staff to work at testing and vaccination facilities.

Middlemore Hospital has delayed more than 300 hip replacements and its clinical director of surgery says catching up will not be easy in the foreseeable future.

"If things turned off at the moment and everything came back to normal it would probably still take us the best part of 12 months to actually catch up," said Dr John Kenealy, who leads Middlemore's surgical team. "It's not just hips. They represent a small proportion of all of the other stuff that's been cancelled as well."

It's a similar story in Dunedin where the Southern DHB has long waiting lists for some non-urgent surgery including more than 400 hip replacements.

"Even with our limited ability to increase and work Saturdays and do longer lists, even if it we were able to do an extra five operations a week, it would take us two years to get though the backlog," said Janine Cochrane, the Southern DHB's surgical and radiology general manager.

Health Minister Andrew Little says more than $400 million dollars has been made available to help DHBs clear the backlog. But DHB'S who spoke to 1News say there just isn't enough capacity or staff to fix the problem.