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‘Big effort’ to sort waiting list

HAUORA Tairawhiti tries to ensure all elective surgery patients are seen by a specialist within four months of a first referral.

But the board cannot guarantee that will always be the case, says chief executive Jim Green.

All patients are tracked during their course of treatment.

Mr Green was speaking after board member Hiki Pihema asked if patients were being prioritised and advised of their treatment — “so that we don’t see things like that in the paper’’, she said, referring to a May 21 article in the Gisborne Herald about a patient waiting 18 months for surgery for an enlarged prostate.

Some surgery options could be performed quickly, Mr Green said.

“It would do the job, but it would not give you an optimal result. For such surgery, you may have to wait longer.

“We do a lot of trading off and have that conversation with patients.”

Specialities such as cardiology, neurology, plastics and rheumatology were also dependent on capacity or visiting specialists.

Mrs Pihema again expressed concern about media articles about patients waiting long periods for surgery.

Board chairman David Scott said such media coverage was “sadly a part of life”.

“We will always have stories in the press despite our best efforts.

“Every year we get similar letters, similar pleas, valid too, I might add.”

Mr Green said Hauora Tairawhiti had made a big effort ‘‘to sort out’’ patients waiting for surgery.

“That type of effort is going on every day in all services.”

Patients were prioritised by the severity of their condition and treated expeditiously.

There were also considerations about people being ready for surgery.

“For some patients, that could take time to make having a procedure safe.

“I can’t guarantee that some people won’t fall behind.’’

Mr Green said that sometimes happened by design because of clinical decisions made in conjunction with the patient.

There were instances of patients waiting 18 months for treatment.

“That’s the patient’s perception, but from a clinical point of view and a service point of view, there are points along the track that wouldn’t make it 18 months.”

Mrs Pihema said the patient who approached the media had problems that appeared to be about communication with the hospital.

Mr Green said that was definitely an issue.

Patients received a letter in a form which was standard across the nation.

The letter said they would be seen or treated within four months.

“It could be four months for some people, for others it could be next week.”

No letter was sent over the four month period but people are reminded before their appointment by text message, if this is an option for them.

Mr Green said staff were looking into the issue.