Woman waiting months for cataract surgery in constant pain

Source: Local Democracy Reporting

A Marlborough woman who has waited months for cataract surgery says her eye gets so sore, sometimes she wishes she could just “rip it out”.

Marita Winstanley, 67, has been waiting for cataract surgery since April.

By Mala Hart of Local Democracy Reporting

Music tutor Marita Winstanley, 67, said she's struggling to read the notes on her music sheets, as she continues to wait to get her eye sorted.

Winstanley said she was first told she needed eye surgery around April last year.

“I went in to get new glasses around April and the optician said, ‘no, there’s no point having new glasses, you have a very bad cataract’," she said.

It took about three months to get her first appointment at Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, where a doctor confirmed she would need surgery.

“I think at the time he said they were short of surgeons because of Covid,” she said.

“Then I got a letter from the hospital saying it had to get done, four months from the date of receiving the letter. That was in June.”

She said she was told to put her name on a “last-minute” list, in case the hospital had any sudden space to do the surgery.

“One day they rang in and said ‘we have a place’, so I said ‘I’ll take it'.

"Then I got there, and it was cancelled. I still don’t know why that was,” she said.

She was then told she could get the surgery on December 1. She understood a surgeon had come to Blenheim from Rotorua to help the hospital catch-up on a backlog.

But, while in the theatre ready to be admitted for surgery, Winstanley was told her international normalised ratio (INR) levels were too high – which could cause excessive bleeding.

She said another surgery date for December 23 was cancelled. Again, she was told it was her INR levels, despite a pharmacist putting her on a programme to get her levels down.

Winstanley was under the impression her INR levels were fine when the surgery was cancelled.

This week she had tried to contact the hospital again, after being told someone would get in contact with her. She had only managed to get through to an answerphone.

“I’ve had a lot to do with Wairau Hospital over the years, I’ve had knee surgeries and feet reconstruction. It’s never been as difficult as this, I just don't know what's going on.”

Nelson Marlborough Health general manager clinical services Pat Davidsen said there were two funded ophthalmology positions at Wairau Hospital.

Neither position was currently filled, however, an offer had been made to an overseas specialist.

“The team are supporting the individual through registration with the Medical Council, Immigration and MIQ,” Davidsen said.

He said Nelson Marlborough Health looked to operate one system across Nelson Marlborough with Nelson-based ophthalmologists supporting Wairau Hospital.

“We have also funded locum ophthalmologists allowing us to meet the highest need. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult as Covid-19 disruption impacts locum availability,” he said.

Davidsen confirmed there was a backlog in ophthalmology, caused by lockdowns, and border closures impacting overseas recruitment.

“While extra funding is available to support the service to get back on track, recruitment remains a challenge,” he said.

News of the vacancies in the ophthalmology department comes just two weeks after former Wairau Hospital nurse Agnes Tyson walked away from her job over concerns about under-staffing.

“There’s just never enough nurses... I just want to work in conditions where I don’t leave every day feeling guilty that I don’t have the time to spend with patients,” Tyson said.

Tyson said she felt compelled to speak publicly about how understaffed the hospital was, despite being warned not to by her co-workers.

It also came after it was revealed the hospital’s High Dependency Units (HDU) were merged with the inpatient unit.

However, acting general manager of clinical services Rosey Wilson said there would be no reduction in the level of care a patient would receive.

“The higher level of care provided in HDU has been moved into the IPU (inpatient unit) to optimise our nursing resources,” Wilson said.