Women denied treatment for gynaecological conditions

7:37 am on 8 October 2019

Women are being turned away from Tauranga and Christchurch hospitals for treatment for "non-urgent" gynaecological conditions, as a clearer picture emerges of nationwide shortfalls in women's health care.

Corridor hospital

Several DHBs are struggling to see the patients referred to them. Photo: Supplied

And other DHBs are also struggling to see all the patients referred to them.

RNZ has been reporting on the struggles of Counties Manukau patients to be seen by a specialist for conditions like endometriosis or incontinence because the service is under so much pressure it can only deal with the most urgent conditions, like cancer.

Now it has emerged women in the Bay of Plenty, Canterbury, South Canterbury and Blenheim areas have also not been guaranteed a specialist appointment.

The Bay of Plenty DHB said its Obstetrics and Gynaecology service was only accepting urgent referrals.

It's elective services manager Dorothy McKeown said in a statement that the service had changed criteria for a first specialist appointment in May after it experienced an increase in demand.

Women who were not deemed urgent were referred back to their GPs for care, she said.

The DHB declined a request to be interviewed.

And in Canterbury, many non-urgent cases were also turned away and sent back to the GPs who had sent them for specialist care in the first place.

The DHB's executive director of planning, funding and decision support, Carolyn Gullery, said the mosque attacks, junior doctor strikes and and the flooding of an outpatients building, had put a lot of pressure on the system.

That meant they had raise the threshold for who qualified to be treated by a specialist.

"This is not about us never seeing [the patients], this is actually about us saying 'we are going to see this group of patients first and then we will come back and change the referral criteria again,'" Ms Gullery said.

"We have agonised over changing the pathways and changing the referrals but the department feels they need to have this happen to enable them to get back on top of the process so they can return to delivering timely care."

She expected the situation to be back to normal by the end of the year and in the meantime GPs were getting extra support where needed, she said.

In Blenheim, some women had not been able to be seen by a hospital specialist this year but that had changed last month, after new doctors were hired and started work, the Nelson Marlborough DHB said.

Women with non-urgent conditions were now been seen at Wairau hospital again, the DHB said.

In response to an RNZ query, South Canterbury DHB said women with non-gynaecological conditions were not guaranteed a specialist appointment but had not outlined any further details.

Hutt Valley DHB said some of the patients referred to its specialists are able to be seen by their GPs and so are being referred back to them.

It did not class that as declining patients.

Those women who could be seen by specialists had to wait longer than four months for an appointment because of the high number of patients being referred, a spokeswoman said.