21 Jun 2020

Orthopaedists urge for hospital partnerships to reduce waiting times

3:13 pm on 21 June 2020

A group for orthopaedic doctors is calling for a formal partnership between public and private hospitals to try and reduce the waiting lists for elective surgery.

Public hospitals reported more than 500 adverse events or failures in the past year.

Photo: 123RF

New Zealand Orthopaedic Association president Peter Robertson said there needed to be urgent action to help people who were waiting in pain for surgery.

Dr Robertson said there had been an increase in urgent or emergency orthopaedic surgeries in recent years due to an ageing population and more complex cases arising.

That had resulted in public hospitals having less capacity for elective orthopaedic surgery, he said.

Dr Robertson said the government's announcement of further funding for elective surgery was welcome, but would not be enough to make a substantial difference in waiting times.

There were several changes which could reduce waiting lists, including training of more orthopaedic surgeons and more investment in public hospitals, he said.

There should also be more use of partnerships between private and public hospitals, he said.

Private hospitals almost solely provided elective procedures, so planned elective surgery was much more likely to go ahead, he said.

"We need to act now," Dr Robertson said.

"We have been urging action on the decline of capacity to do elective surgery for several years, but getting very little traction. We can't wait for years for changes to take place," he said.

"Partnership with the private sector, utilising spare operating theatre capacity, provides immediate additional capacity for elective orthopaedic and other surgery for public patients currently on waiting lists."

The current voluntary and variable partnerships between private and public hospitals around the country were not enough, Dr Robertson said.

There should be a national framework, mandated by the government, which facilitated partnerships between district health boards and private hospitals, he said.

"The idea is to make it a win-win situation. So you have spare capacity in the private sector, you've got the people on the waiting list, it's done at a rate that works for both. So it's not full private costs, it's beneficial for the public hospital but it allows the private hospital to continue to function."

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