29 Jan 2014

Ryall promises more elective surgeries

8:32 pm on 29 January 2014

The Health Minister says the Government will pay an extra $10 million to provide more elective surgery over the next five months.

Tony Ryall.

Tony Ryall. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

Tony Ryall says the funding will provide operations for 1800 to 2000 extra patients by mid-year.

In October last year, some orthopaedic surgeons called for more elective operations to keep up with demand from patients living in pain.

Health insurers also say 170,000 New Zealanders need operations but can't get on a waiting list.

Mr Ryall said on Wednesday the Government has increased public funding for non-urgent surgery substantially since 2008, but wants even more done, and careful financial management has made it possible to spend an extra $10 million on non-urgent operations.

One third of the extra operations funded would be orthopaedic, including knee and hip joint replacements. The rest will be general surgery, ophthalmology including cataracts, and ear, nose and throat operations.

Annette King.

Annette King. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

Mr Ryall said the Government has identified medical speciality areas within public hospitals where more could be done and district health boards will get extra funds to achieve that.

"There's been a pressure point in some parts of the country with respect to orthopaedics that a number of DHBs have capacity to do more and we're going to pick up on that."

The minister said details of what DHBs will receive will be released soon.

Labour's health spokesperson Annette King said the extra funding will not go far enough.

"Eighteen hundred patients getting more elective surgery is nothing but a drop in the bucket when we have got specialists saying there is huge unmet need. And what they really are asking for is an independent, scientific measure so we can find out what the real level of need is."

Ms King said changes are needed to ensure access to the surgery is consistent and does not vary between regions.