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Patients get sicker on ‘ghost’ waiting lists

Jonathan Coleman owes an apology to tens of thousands of Kiwis who have been denied surgery assessments over the last five years, Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson David Clark says.

“Since 2010 almost 160,000 people have been referred back to their GPs after being unable to get an appointment to see a specialist, with the number of refusals jumping 23 per cent since 2013.

“Those people have basically disappeared into the health system ether. Their GPs think their condition warrants a specialist, yet manipulation of the system means they are not meeting the pain thresholds needed to satisfy clinical criteria.

“DHBs themselves have confirmed they are using suspended waiting lists for surgery because they can’t fit operations in within the Government's new target of four months. The same thing is happening with first specialist assessments.

“Meanwhile Dr Coleman has repeatedly denied there are any hidden waiting lists.

“Today he has confirmed that tens of thousands of New Zealanders have been given the brush off, meaning there's a backlog of patients waiting to see a specialist. When confronted with Infometrics’ independent estimate that $1.7 billion in value had been wiped from Health under National, he admitted the health budget hasn't kept pace with inflationary pressures.

“This isn’t about numbers. It’s about real people living in pain, with conditions deemed serious by their GPs, who have been told to go away and come back when they are sicker. That is a travesty,” David Clark says.