5 Sep 2017

Dunedin men declined appointments living in agony

9:00 pm on 5 September 2017

A Dunedin man declined a specialist appointment says he has considered suicide because he cannot cope with living in so much pain.

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A Dunedin man was sent to hospital from his GP appointment in an ambulance because his hip pain was so bad. He was left waiting on a guernsey for about nine hours, he says. Photo: 123RF

Ted McKinnon, 66, said he has been in agony for three years but his bone-on-bone joint pain still is not enough to get him a specialist appointment. He survives on a cocktail of morphine, codeine and paracetamol.

"I'm just wondering if it's easier for the department to have to take my leg right off at the hip so I don't have to deal with this pain all of the time, or is it easier for me to just wait to see a physician so I can get my hip done," Mr McKinnon said.

His latest rejection letter from the DHB, received 30 August, told him that the department was dealing with more referrals than could be seen within current resources and that, "your allocated priority is such that we are unable to offer you an appointment for an assessment by a specialist".

Mr McKinnon's GP Jan Cottle said his quality of life was so bad he exists rather than living.

She said he was in so much agony at his last appointment she had to call an ambulance.

Mr McKinnon was taken to the hospital and waiting to be seen at the emergency department for what he said was nine hours.

When he was finally seen by a doctor Mr McKinnon told him that he was in so much pain he had contemplated suicide.

"The doctor came and got me again and took me into this emergency department room.

"I said I was thinking of euthanising, thinking of getting some euthanasia done to me, and then he said, 'Well as long as you're not going to do that', and I said, 'No, I won't'."

Dave Laing, 71, who also lives in Dunedin, has been desperately hoping for a knee replacement since an orthopeadic surgeon recommended it in 2015.

"I had an appointment with an orthopeadic surgeon that said I need a left knee replacement and that was fine.

"However, after filling out the National Prioritisation form, I obtained a score of 64, which is below the threshold for surgery. I have been rejected for surgery three times," he said.

Today at the Bob Scott Retirement Village in Petone, National leader Bill English and his Health Minister Jonathan Coleman pledged 20,000 more elective surgeries a year if re-elected.

Dr Coleman said as New Zealanders lived longer, their access to elective surgery became more important.

"No government has provided every New Zealander with every operation they would like to have, so it is a commitment to a continual ongoing increase," Dr Coleman said.

Mr Laing said he wondered how he did not meet the threshold for surgery.

"My message to the minister is, stop and listen to what people are saying, rather than telling us they've done 50,000 more operations in the last nine years. That doesn't interest me, what interests me is getting my left knee fixed so I can do what I want to do."

Labour's health spokesperson David Clark said he despaired at what was going on with the health system.

"You do begin to wonder just how bad you have to be to get the healthcare that you need in New Zealand."