Is the Government misleading Kiwis over its elective surgery target?

Since 2008 the Government has been consistently hitting or exceeding its target of 4000 extra elective surgeries per year, but it's getting there with one surgery - an eye injection.

The overall increase in electives in 2016 was 4119, and the increase in Avastin eye injections was 2565. In the same year, the number of extra orthopaedic surgeries - that's things like hips and knees - was just 284.

Other surgeries decreased, including ear nose and throat surgery, paediatrics and general surgery.

Avastin is a drug used to treat macular degeneration - a leading cause of blindness. Each patient begins treatment with at least three injections and each injection is counted as a separate surgery in the official figures, meaning the 2565 extra injections only went to at most 855 patients.

Labour health spokesperson David Clark says "This looks like a clear case of the Government trying to present as though it's doing more than it actually is."

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Opthamologist Dr Brian Kent Smith says increasingly the injection is being given by specially trained nurses and it doesn't even have to be done in an operating theatre - just a sterile room. "At the end of the day it's just an injection but if it's done badly the consequences can be dire the consequences can be a blind eye," he says.

The total number of elective surgeries in 2016 was 171,608 - up from 167,489 the previous year.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman rejects the suggestion the Government is using injections to pump up its numbers. "I wouldn't call them necessarily minor surgical operations. We've been very transparent around the targets we are hitting those targets."

Avastin injections have only been reported separately to all other eye surgery since 2011. If the surgeries were counted per patient rather than per injection in the statistics since then, the Government's target would have been missed every year.

Southland woman loses her job while waiting for hip surgery  

Dianne Pearsey is one of the thousands of New Zealanders the Government pledged to help by setting a target of 4000 extra electives per year. She's been waiting a year to get her hip fixed and she's sick of it.

"I don't want to get out of bed in the morning because it's painful," she says.

Ms Pearsey works in aged care and has had to take so much time off that she couldn't keep her job. "I love those old people it's just not fair", she says. "It was to the point where they could walk better than what I could."

Everyday life has become a struggle. "I cannot do my luxxing, I struggle to do dusting I don't know when I last cooked a roast because I can't carry it."

Her husband asks: "I mean is that not an incentive for them to get their ass into gear and get the job done?"

"I mean if your hip's bad enough that you lost your bloody job and everything."

Ms Pearsey's employer told Newshub it's not the first time a staff member has lost their job while waiting for surgery.

"Unfortunately, this often leads to people needing to come out of employment. This is not the first time we have experienced a case similar to this and it is of concern as we see our workforce ageing."

The employer held her job open for as long as possible, but as it's an important role they need to replace her. "We wish her well and will endeavour to welcome her back when she is fit for work again."

Ms Pearsey doesn't care for the Government's elective surgery targets. "I've paid my taxes, I should be able to get in get myself fixed, get back to work."

Newshub.

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