Some day surgery delayed

Some patients scheduled to undergo day surgery requiring a general anaesthetic at Dunedin Hospital have been put off or sent to other hospitals due to a shortage of anaesthetists.

Otago District Health Board emergency medicine and surgical services group manager Dr Colleen Coop said the arrival of new staff this month meant general anaesthesia for day surgery could resume on March 22.

However, general anaesthetic work in gynaecology could go ahead on March 11 because an anaesthetist had offered to work an extra day.

Day surgery procedures requiring general anaesthesia stopped on February 15.

Staff are still performing procedures requiring locals.

Dr Coop said some procedures had been "outsourced" to other hospitals, including Timaru, Invercargill and Mercy Hospital in Dunedin.

She could not say how many.

The shortage of anaesthetists was caused by the "normal delays" of recruiting staff, she said.

Seven staff were due to start, the first next Monday.

The ODHB increased its complement of anaesthetists last year, which was partly why so many were needed at one time.

Procedures requiring general anaesthesia in day surgery included children's grommet and tonsil operations, hernia surgery, gynaecological and urology procedures.

Dunedin man Ron Morris (50) said he had waited months for a hernia operation.

His hernia developed following a hip operation in July, and had hindered his rehabilitation.

He was told in November his surgery would be shortly after Christmas, but he was not given a date.

Mr Morris said he had been chasing health staff since the New Year, and was told that, due to the lack of anaesthetists, he might be sent to another centre.

However, nothing had been confirmed.

Mr Morris said he was not happy about going elsewhere for his operation, but would if he had to.

He believed it made more sense for people to be treated in their home hospital, close to friends and family.

The delay meant he could not get work.

He lost his job due to the time he took off with his hip replacement.

He was on a sickness benefit, and it was very hard to pay a mortgage on a limited income.

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