The Government's elective surgery targets encourage
health boards to push through high volumes of straightforward
procedures, senior doctors' union executive director Ian Powell
Mr Powell was asked for comment on first specialist
assessment numbers released by Health Minister Tony Ryall
Whether patients qualify for an elective procedure is
determined at their first specialist assessment. The Southern
District Health Board performed 22,076 first specialist
assessments in 2012-13.
That was 7.5% more than 2008-09, the year Mr Ryall uses as a
Each of the four years since had seen more assessments than
2008-09, totalling 8900 ''extra'' appointments, Mr Ryall
''This is a really positive achievement for patients,
particularly when for much of the 2000s the number of New
Zealanders getting these assessments was stagnant.
''Waiting lists around the country were so long back then
around 30,000 patients were culled from lists, without seeing
a specialist,'' Mr Ryall said in a press release.
Mr Powell, of the Association of Salaried Medical
Specialists, said the system was geared towards throughput,
and that could have unintended consequences.
''Doing more electives is good, but you should not get overly
cocky about it.''
He had no problem with a focus on elective surgery itself,
but the targets as they were applied in the current system
favoured high volume simple procedures, he said.