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Wait list still not compliant

Wairarapa Hospital’s orthopaedic wait list has halved since lockdown. PHOTO/FILE

But orthopaedic surgeon recruitment on track

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Post-lockdown, more than 100 people were expected to wait more than four months for orthopaedic surgery at Wairarapa Hospital.

Now, that list is halved [51], but it is still not compliant with Ministry of Health standards.

The standard is for patients who have been given a commitment to surgery to wait no longer than four months for it.

The latest Wairarapa District Health Board report stated the hospital should be compliant with ministry standards by the end of the year, with appropriate locums in place.

In February this year, it was made public Wairarapa Hospital’s orthopaedic surgeon staff was reduced to one, from four, after retirements and resignations.

At that time, there were 89 people waiting more than four months for orthopaedic surgery.

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Dale Oliff said recruitment was difficult for smaller district health boards, “but Wairarapa is a great place to live and work and we are proud of what we can offer”.

“We always make sure to celebrate all the advantages of the region as well as the benefits of working in our team when we go to market to fill vacancies.

“In February, we outlined significant gaps in our surgical team.

“Since then, we have been working hard to fill positions and a number of appointments have recently been made.”

This is despite recruitment challenges due to covid-19 restrictions.

In general surgery, a locum working at Wairarapa Hospital is interested in taking up a permanent general surgeon role, she said, and an offer is out for another general surgeon, among a “full complement of locum cover”.

In orthopaedics, a permanent orthopaedic surgeon is now working for the DHB, and two further offers have been made.

One of those has been accepted and the other is being considered.

“Currently overseas, the surgeons will be starting with us as soon as immigration and medical council processes are completed.”

A locum anaesthetist starts at the DHB in September, an offer for a permanent anaesthetist is being drafted, and they are interviewing two others for permanent positions.

One permanent offer for a physician role has been made and is being considered.

Gaps continue in psychiatry however with a 0.6 full time equivalent position vacant in child and adolescent mental health, and 2.8 FTE in the adult service.

“Recruitment is ongoing and locum placements are covering gaps in the meantime,” Oliff said.

But locum placements come at a cost.

DHB financials for June show the continued reliance on locums to cover medical staff vacancies were $139,000 above what was forecasted.

The forecasted amount for locum cover of staff vacancies in particular was not in the report.

The draft financial report for the year to the end of June is pending a final audit sign-off but showed $5.58 million had been spent on outsourced medical personnel, over budget by $2.2m.

The DHB was under budget for its in-house medical personnel expenses by $1.8m.

The DHB was set to meet today to discuss the report, which also showed there had been an increase in road trauma and critical transfers to Wellington Hospital in June, which challenged resources and time at Wairarapa Hospital.

The latest Wairarapa District Health Board report also showed about 10 per cent of people waited longer than six hours at the hospital’s emergency department last month, compared with six per cent and four per cent the months prior.

The report showed there was a marked increase in the number of presentations however – 1405 in June compared with 1195 and 966 the months prior.

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