West Coasters undergoing surgery in Christchurch

Additional orthopaedic operations for West Coast residents have been carried out in private hospitals in Christchurch in the past month, as Greymouth hospital attempts to reduce waiting times exacerbated by Covid-19.

An update to the West Coast District Health Board advisory group said additional Ministry of Health funding had enabled additional hip and knee joint surgeries privately during May and into June, to reduce some of the longer waiting times at Te Nikau Hospital in Greymouth, particularly in orthopaedics.

Additional plastic surgery bookings had also been secured with the extra funding.

The waiting list for plastic surgery first specialist assessments had reduced from 68 patients in February to 14 in May.

The plastics surgical waiting list had benefited as well with 39 patients currently waiting, 26 of whom had surgery booked in June.

West Coast DHB general manager Philip Wheble said 35 major joint operations had been done off the West Coast.

While the extra plastic surgeries would significantly reduce the long wait time, for orthopaedics there would still be people on the waiting list over the time limit.

"The impact of the Covid-19 lockdown and distancing restrictions in August and September 2021, and again from February 2022 onward have influenced our results," Wheble said in an update.

"General surgery, paediatric surgery and urology are on year to date delivery targets, but there have been fewer elective cases able to be delivered in the disciplines of cardiothoracic, ear nose and throat, gynaecology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, plastics and vascular surgery."

The West Coast DHB had 165 patients waiting more than 120 days for their first outpatient specialist assessment at the end of March - 107 orthopaedic cases, along with plastics (22), urology (17), rheumatology (8), cardiology (6), respiratory (4) and general medicine (1).

Telehealth had been used wherever possible for specialist assessments.

There were 101 West Coast patients waiting more than 120 days from their first surgical assessment until surgical treatment as of the end of March, spread across orthopedics (75), urology (10), plastics (8), dental surgery (5), ophthalmology (2), and paediatric surgery (1).

-By Brendon McMahon
Local democracy reporter

-Public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air

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