Elective surgeries return, but not all patients will be seen

Elective surgeries are resuming under COVID-19 alert level 3 but there are two groups of high-risk patients who will have to wait longer to get theirs.

The Ministry of Health has told hospitals to hold off on performing surgeries on over 70-year-olds and those who are overweight.

During Monday's briefing, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says it's important to ensure their safety during the pandemic.

"If their surgery can be deferred then the advice is then to defer that to avoid exposing them to any potential risk of COVID-19."

Hospitals cancelled all elective surgery during the lockdown so District Health Boards are now facing a backlog of 30,000 operations.

"So there is a challenge ahead and the DHBs are focused really hard and on working with the private sector to ensure we catch up on that backlog," Bloomfield says.

Franco Prisco is one of six patients who had elective surgery at the Mobile Health Bus on Monday which is getting back on the road to offer rural communities day surgery.

Prisco says it was a "huge surprise" after waiting six months for his hernia operation and is excited to be well again.

"After the surgery, I can lift my children, I have a little 4-year-old. I can go for longer walks, I can go on bike rides."

The bus has been off the road during the COVID-19 lockdown but is now ready to deal with the onslaught of patients on the waitlist.

Specialist Anaesthetist Dr Nathan Kershaw says: "It's great to start doing elective surgery because we know they've been banking up and we've got a backlog that we're going to have to work our way through".

And after Monday, Prisco is one less patient on their very long waitlist.