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Patients waiting in more pain for operations

Kiwis needing hip or knee replacements continue to face a postcode lottery when it comes to levels of care with more than half the country’s DHBs increasing surgery pain thresholds over the last three years, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

“What that means is that depending on where you live you may have to be in more pain, and wait longer for an operation than someone else waiting for the same treatment in another region.

“The disparity is most obvious in the North Island, with patients in Hawkes Bay, Tairawhiti, Auckland and Lakes regions looking at a 20-plus point increase in assessment criteria over the last three years.

Points are scored according to each criteria and patient is given a score out of 100. Criteria include the amount of pain a person is in, whether it limits their mobility, how beneficial an operation would be and the likely consequences if their surgery was delayed for six months.

“What’s worse is that these thresholds are arbitrary. In Auckland, for instance, a patient needs 70 points to get a new hip or knee, in Northland it’s 73, Nelson-Marlborough 85 and in Palmerston North (MidCentral) and Canterbury you need a whopping 90 points.

“An additional $30 million (over three years) for orthopaedic surgery announced with great fanfare in the Budget equals an average of $500,000 a year for each of our DHBs. That might buy an extra 25 hip operations, but it will do nothing to lower the bar for getting one.

“Clearly access to surgery is being withheld for some patients. They are being forced to wait in pain and discomfort for treatment that would dramatically improve their quality of life

“That is not only unfair, it is cruel,” Annette Kings says.