Mum’s long wait for doc

500 days and count­ing to see spe­cial­ist

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Louise Shan­non news@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

CAN­NON­VALE mum-of-two Danielle McAlpine has waited more than 500 days to see an ear, nose and throat spe­cial­ist for two op­er­a­tions to help re­lieve chronic pain and health prob­lems.

Mrs McAlpine and her hus­band Peter feel “help­less” af­ter be­ing told there is noth­ing that can be done to re­duce her wait time, al­though the tar­get wait time for a Cat­e­gory 3 ENT pa­tient is 12 months.

The aver­age wait time for the mum’s cat­e­gory at Mackay Hos­pi­tal is 426 days.

Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing the more ur­gent Cat­e­gory 1 pa­tients were be­ing seen, but the Cat­e­gory 2 and 3 pa­tient lists were not re­duc­ing, Mrs McAlpine has booked in to have the first surgery done pri­vately in Townsville at a cost of nearly $4000.

She also paid $6000 last year for her then four-year-old son Ed­ward to be op­er­ated on in the pri­vate health sys­tem as he was also on a long wait list.

“He needed his ton­sils and ade­noids taken out and he needed grom­mets. I was keep­ing his chin up at night so he could breathe, so I could not have left him on that wait list. It was crazy.”

Mrs McAlpine said she was orig­i­nally in line for the surg­eries to be done at the Townsville Hos­pi­tal, but last year the case load was trans­ferred to Mackay.

“I need my ton­sils out, and the other op­er­a­tion is for my si­nuses.

“It af­fects your sleep. There’s not any time now where I don’t have trou­ble with my ton­sils.”

Now 32, she said she had been deal­ing with the con­stant pain and dis­com­fort as well as re­cur­ring ton­sil­li­tis for the past three to four years.

“I get ver­tigo if I go over hills or fly. One of my pas­sions is scuba div­ing, which I can no longer do due to the pres­sure.

“Due to the pain, it stops me from do­ing things on a daily ba­sis. And, when you’re sick all the time, you’re al­ways run down.

“There was a time that I stopped tak­ing an­tibi­otics be­cause I had been on them for over a year.”

Mrs McAlpine said her only op­tions were to pay for the sec­ond surgery or move to another hos­pi­tal.

“I wanted to get re­ferred to Brisbane, but I would go back to day one of the wait list. I’ve asked and they just can’t help me.”

Mrs McAlpine said if more fund­ing was pro­vided for ENT spe­cial­ists to work ex­tra days in the Mackay area, the load could be re­duced.

Af­ter mak­ing an of­fi­cial com­plaint to the Of­fice of the Health Om­buds­man, she was told that Cat­e­gory 2 pa­tients had not started

be­ing treated, and pa­tients would con­tinue to be added to wait lists.

She was told to ex­pect an ex­tended wait, on which no time­frame could be given, and that there were about 70 pa­tients ahead of her on the Cat­e­gory 3 list, and 104 Cat­e­gory 2 pa­tients.

The let­ter stated that the times it took a pa­tient to be seen would in­crease if the ser­vice de­mand was out­strip­ping sup­ply – “which is the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion” – and that the sit­u­a­tion arose when the list was trans­ferred from Townsville to Mackay.

Mackay HHS chief ex­ec­u­tive Jo White­head said there was a high de­mand for pub­lic ENT ser­vices in the Mackay Hos­pi­tal and Health Ser­vice, and the hos­pi­tal in­tro­duced a vis­it­ing ENT ser­vice in late-2016 to meet de­mand.

Ms White­head said Mackay had three days of spe­cial­ist out­pa­tient ap­point­ments and three days of ENT surgery each month.

“Be­fore this, ev­ery pub­lic

I wanted to get re­ferred to Brisbane, but I would go back to day one of the wait list. I’ve asked and they just can’t help me.

pa­tient re­quir­ing ENT spe­cial­ist con­sul­ta­tion and surgery trav­elled to Townsville,” she said.

Some Cat­e­gory 2 and 3 pa­tients were wait­ing longer than the rec­om­mended time, she said.

“We are cur­rently re­view­ing the ser­vice of­fered and what can be done to bet­ter man­age de­mand in the future.

“Each month we see a to­tal of about 60 pa­tients – adult and pe­di­atric – and this is a com­bi­na­tion of new pa­tients and re­view ap­point­ments.”

PHOTO: PETER CAR­RUTHERS

LONG WAIT: Peter, El­lie, Ed­ward and Danielle McAlpine, of Can­non­vale. Danielle has waited more than 500 days to see an ENT spe­cial­ist.

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