North Taranaki Midweek
Woman’s surgery cancelled three times
A mother of three who has had back surgery at Taranaki Base Hospital cancelled three times at the last minute has been told not to get her hopes up that her next appointment will go ahead.
Marie, a pseudonym to protect her privacy, said her sciatic nerve is jammed in her spine.
‘‘Then it releases and it goes in your hip area. It’s jammed in my hip as well.’’
Marie said she worries she might get addicted to her pain medication so stops taking it, only to end up curled up on the floor in the foetal position crying in agony.
Her mother and sister have both taken annual leave and travelled to Taranaki three times to look after her and her three children while she recovers. They cannot do it again.
Now Marie’s husband has had to stop work to look after her as she needs a crutch and struggles to get around.
In March, there were 1291 people in Taranaki who had waited more than four months for an elective surgical procedure. That jumped to 1426 in April, dropping slightly to 1402 in May.
A great-grandmother from Stratford recently told how she believes a long delay in getting surgery resulted in her losing an eye.
Nationally, in the year between May 2021 and May 2022, those promised treatment who had not received it within the four-month target grew from 23% to 41%.
In May 2021, 12,800 people had not been treated within the target. By May 2022, this had risen to 28,000.
Last year, Marie’s GP sent referrals to a specialist at Te Whatu Ora Taranaki, only to be rejected four times because the problem was not seen as urgent, she said.
‘‘I’d had X-rays done, but I hadn’t had an MRI. The GP can’t order one, only the surgeon can do that.’’
Finally, in January she was sent for an MRI and met with the specialist.
‘‘He had gone over my MRI and said, ‘You need surgery. I’ll get you in within six weeks.’ And it’s nearly August and still nothing.’’
Each time Marie’s surgery was cancelled she was told it was due to a shortage of beds, she said.
‘‘It’s now booked for the beginning of September, but they said they couldn’t guarantee it was going to happen. They cancel the surgery, and you have to go back to your GP for more pain relief, have to pay the GP and you get a prescription, which all costs money.’’
‘‘My mental health has not being the greatest. I can’t be a mum properly. I can’t go to see my children’s sports, or their school, because I can’t move properly. I use a crutch to get around.’’
Marie can’t get off the couch, or in and out of bed without her husband’s help. She needs help showering.
She has made numerous complaints, but it was only after the third that she received a detailed apology letter.
‘‘The complaints lady is the only person who has been helpful. In my complaint I said they’ve just spent billions renaming the DHB, yet can get more beds, or pay staff to come to work.’’
Katy Sheffield, acting chief operating officer of Te Whatu Ora Taranaki, which replaced the former district health board, admitted current demand for surgery is outstripping their capacity to deliver.
‘‘From a demand perspective, winter is always a time when hospitals see higher volumes of presentations and higher bed occupancy, which limits the number of beds available for nonacute operations and services. This has been compounded by the additional burden of Covid19 and winter illnesses, including influenza.’’
For the month of June 2022, there were 68 cancellations out of a total 793 procedures – a rate of 8.6%.
It is very difficult to predict an accurate timeline around when the surgeries will be caught up, she said.
‘‘However, Te Whatu Ora Taranaki staff are working hard to mitigate clinical risk and ensuring that patients are booked as soon as possible.’’