By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News
The West Coast's plastic surgery waiting list is so long some patients are waiting about 11 months for a first specialist appointment and a similar time for surgery.
The News asked Te Whatu Ora West Coast about plastic surgery waiting times after a Westport man with skin cancer said he had been told he was unlikely to see a specialist until October next year.
Chief medical officer Dr Graham Roper said 92 people were currently waiting to see a plastic surgery specialist and 26 people were awaiting plastic surgery.
The shortest wait time for outpatient first specialist appointments was currently one day and the longest wait time was 321 days, Roper said.
The shortest wait time for surgery was currently 10 days and the longest wait time was 338 days.
Two Canterbury-based specialist plastic surgeons took turnabout visiting the West Coast. They were scheduled to visit 12 times a year for one day each time, Roper said.
They performed, on average, three surgeries a month and saw, on average, six new patients a month. Their outpatient clinics saw a mix of new and post-discharge review melanoma patients.
Roper acknowledged the impact of waiting times on patients and their families.
"We understand the additional stress for patients and whānau who are affected by longer waiting times, and work is continuing to address the system pressures that affect both clinic and theatre.
"Our immediate focus is on urgent patients and those who have been waiting the longest for treatment and we know this is making a difference."
The Westport man with skin cancer told The News last week that his GP had referred him in March this year for a first specialist appointment after a cancer previously cut out of his ear reappeared.
The man said he was classed as routine and told he would be seen within four months. His cancer had since worsened and his GP had written another referral.
The man said he had heard nothing, so called the central booking office earlier this month to ask where he was on the list. He said he was told there were 84 ahead of him and he would not be seen until October 2024.
Patient waiting times have increased nationwide.
RNZ reported in June that one in three patients referred for specialist appointments had been waiting longer than the recommended maximum of four months. The proportion of patients waiting more than four months for treatment ballooned from 39.1 percent in May 2022 to just under 46 percent in April 2023.