Figures presented to a board committee showed 760 people had waited a year or more for an operation, and 117 people had waited more than 600 days.
The patients, who are meant to be seen within four months, were mainly ear, nose and throat, plastics, general surgery, orthopaedics and vascular surgery patients.
"The social contract has been broken. They paid their taxes, they have been entered into the system and it didn’t do them a blind bit of good," Mr Hodgson said.
"Allowing people to wait longer is better described as ignoring them ... If someone comes into our system, they can’t just stay there."
Other DHBs were in the same situation but that was no excuse, and the issue required the SDHB and management to be more thoughtful, Mr Hodgson said.
Southland board member Kaye Crowther said she had seen a letter which said a woman would have to wait 40 weeks to be seen.
"Coming to the end of our time, I feel sad that we haven’t made a lot of inroads into this."
SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said current rules had been in place for at least 15 years and if DHBs put people on a waiting list, that was a promise that they would receive their procedure.
"At the moment there is no formal mechanism to be able to say that you have over-promised and that you are not going to be able to meet those," he said.
"But I think you are right that we have to be honest with people about where their situation is at."
SDHB chief operating officer Hamish Brown said long-wait benign patients were outsourced when possible, but many on the waiting list were complex cases requiring in-house hospital care.
"I guess the system is tuned to allow those people to wait longer, whether that’s right or wrong. We certainly don’t want people waiting, but for want of a better word they are more able to wait safely."
Lists were reviewed regularly to ensure patients who had gone private were removed, or that patient’s conditions had not deteriorated and their priority had changed, Mr Brown said.
"Dunedin Hospital general surgery plan to run a regular benign list for long-waiting patients and this will commence once the current Omicron situation resolves."