Man gets surgery date after MP acts

John Young
John Young
A Dunedin man who has waited nearly six months for urgent prostate surgery was given a date for the operation within days of his local MP asking the health board about his care.

John Young has spent months with a catheter, fitted in October for an enlarged prostate.

He was triaged urgent by Southern District Health Board for specialist assessment for surgery but, despite repeated efforts, could not get an appointment.

His wait should have been two months at most. He has had several infections, courses of antibiotics, visits to the emergency department, and numerous trips to his GP.

He said he accepted the board had a shortage of urologists, but asked why he was not referred to Canterbury's health board. He said a clinician told him this would be too costly.

Unusually fit for his 80 years, Mr Young has had his walking, tramping, and fishing activities curtailed by the catheter.

He has continued regular gym visits, with a modified routine, to try to keep his fitness, which would be difficult to regain once lost.

The wait and its associated health and financial cost made no sense when the procedure was a straightforward transurethral resection of the prostate, he said.

He emphasised he was not blaming health staff. The fault lay with underfunding of Dunedin Hospital. Dunedin seemed to be a ''lost city'', probably because it tended to vote Labour, he said.

New Zealanders should have equal rights regardless of their electorate, he believed.

He attended the public meeting about health organised by Labour MPs in Dunedin recently, which alerted Dunedin South MP Clare Curran to his case.

She emailed board chief executive Carole Heatly this month. Five days later, the board contacted Mr Young with confirmation of both assessment and surgery. The procedure will be performed on Thursday.

Ms Curran referred the board an email from Mr Young's GP, David Kent, expressing frustration over the suffering endured by ''probably the most active and independent 80-year-old that I know''.

''My colleagues in other parts of the country are appalled and shocked by the service levels we have in Dunedin for a range of services, which to my and many colleagues' eyes seem to be lengthening and worsening.''

Ms Curran told the Otago Daily Times her electorate office was seeing more health patients wanting help. She was happy to assist, but it did not seem right that it took her intervention to gain treatment.

Southern District Health Board patient services director Lexie O'Shea, in a statement, said a new urologist started this week, and another would join the department in May, easing a staff shortage. For some time the hospital has had only one urologist, supported by locums.

''These new appointments will go a long way towards resolving issues with waiting times in the department.''

Mrs O'Shea said she would not comment specifically on Mr Young's case. He had complained to the board, and this would be addressed directly with him, the statement said.

Mrs O'Shea did not respond to questions about whether patients were told the board could not afford to refer them to another hospital, and whether Mr Young received a surgery slot because of Ms Curran's intervention.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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