Kerry Bennett says his wife doesn’t even have a date for her next surgery. PHOTO/ELI HILL
After three cancelled surgeries and waiting eight months for her left shoulder to be operated on at Wairarapa Hospital, one Masterton woman feels she’s been left in limbo.
Her wait has already exceeded the Ministry of Health’s four-month maximum wait time guideline.
Lisa Bennett’s wait began in February, with a surgery scheduled for June 1, but the day before it was to occur, she had her appointment rescheduled to October 3 after a nurse phoned her to say there was a shortage of beds.
Her second appointment was also rescheduled via a phone call the day before.
“They rescheduled me for October 22, and said they’d definitely see me on the 22nd of October,” Lisa said. “Which they did. I made it as far as the hospital.”
At the hospital Lisa was told by a nurse that all the beds were full, and they weren’t able to operate on her.
Her husband Kerry offered to bring in a stretcher, or pay for a bed in the Selina Sutherland Hospital, but to no avail.
“I’m limited to what I can do, there’s only so much I can do outside, my husband has to do everything,” Lisa said.
“I’m housebound. I miss working. I want to be in the workforce. I’m still young enough to be out there working. You know, being on one income, it’s not easy.”
Her life has been put on hold, and with her second grandchild about to be born as well as a milestone birthday and Christmas coming up, Lisa doesn’t want to miss out.
“In my case [my injury] doesn’t get worse than this. I mean GPs are busy, I don’t want to have to lie or make false claims to try and get in there.
“Surgery’s really stressful to put yourself through as it is, but you’re being cancelled as well. If they’re going to reschedule me – why don’t they reschedule for the next week, not monthly?”
While Bennett understood that people involved in serious accidents would get priority, she thought the communication and the way it had been administered should be looked at.
“I’ll be fine one minute, then I’ll be bursting into tears. I didn’t sleep last night and I’m in pain and I just want this over and done with. There’s only so many painkillers you can take. It’s not nice to take painkillers.”
Due to the length of her wait, she’s had to fill in the same operation agreement twice and has had to see two different anaesthetists about it.
The Code Red situation which caused the surgery to be cancelled was due to a surge of urgent unplanned cases, at the expense of planned work, Wairarapa DHB spokesperson Anna Cardno said.
“To manage the high-pressure situation, we were required to reschedule three elective surgeries, and one of those patients whose procedure was delayed had already been inconvenienced previously – not once, but twice.
“It would have been a great disappointment for them and caused a lot of frustration, I am sure, to have been delayed a third time – and we absolutely apologise for that. It is always a last resort option.”
Cardno said the decision to delay theatre work, whether it be due to strike action, high pressure demand, or staffing issues, was always a decision made with a strict patient safety focus.
“The flow-on effect of deferred surgery is considerable. It means the time it will take to ‘operate our way out’ of delays is pushed out, because the everyday business as usual urgent demand does not stop in the meantime to give us the leeway to catch up.”
The Ministry of Health has a four-month maximum wait time guideline, Cardno said.
“The forced deferred procedures recently mean we are currently not meeting that expectation – especially with respect to orthopaedics.
“With comprehensive recruitment campaigns, a focus on regional collaboration and resolution of industrial action, we hope to turn that around as soon as possible.”
But an end to Lisa’s troubles appears to be in sight.
Her husband Kerry said yesterday they’d received a letter from their nurse apologising for the cancellation, and they now have a new date for Lisa’s surgery – November 5.
“They’re going to appoint a new anaesthetist and hopefully we can get it done.
“We’ll be talking about it tonight because Christmas and everything is coming up. But I think we’ll go with it, you’ve got to just take your chances.”
More strike action to disrupt hospital services
More surgeries and appointments are set to be cancelled as Medical Imagining Technologists embark on their biggest strike action in a decade.
From 7am Tuesday until 7am on Saturday, and again from 7am on Monday November 4 until 7am the following day, Medical Imagining Technologists [MITs] will be taking strike action in support of settling their employment agreement.
This is the MITs third round of strikes.
Striking will include both full and partial withdrawal of labour but will not affect ultrasound services.
Wairarapa District Health Board said it has detailed plans in place to ensure it can continue to provide the best possible care for the Wairarapa community during the strikes.
A small number of imaging staff will provide a limited service for patients to meet urgent need. X-rays for acute emergency and ward inpatients, and acute GP referrals will be available.
“We have skeleton-staff rosters in place to manage any urgent need during the strikes,” chief medical officer, Shawn Sturland said.
“Together with the union we are organising on call cover for urgent CT scanning, as per life preserving services requirements.
“Patient appointments have had to be rescheduled. While it is unavoidable, we know this is extremely inconvenient for people waiting, and we do apologise for that..”
Some elective surgeries have also been rescheduled.
“We are doing all we can to minimise the impact of the strikes on our patients,” he said.
“Strike activity puts people and systems under pressure, and we are grateful for the hard work being put in by the planning team, and for the continued support of our staff.”
Nearly 1200 DHB employed MITs around the country will be participating in the strike.
DHBs are yet to produce an improved offer despite mediated bargaining, national secretary of APEX union Deborah Powell said.
“We met with the DHBs over three weeks ago at mediation and explained very clearly what a fair deal for the MITs would look like.
“The delay in progressing the bargaining is due to the employers’ bureaucratic processes which are hampering efficient bargaining, and as a result, we are now on track for the biggest MIT strike action in a decade.”
Negotiations between the union and DHBs have been ongoing for 11 months.
MITs work in radiology services, assisting with diagnosis and treatment of patients using general X-rays, CT, MRI, mammography, angiography and nuclear medicine.