Over 10,000 Kiwis face increased surgery waiting lists due to COVID-19 lockdown

Tens of thousands of Kiwis are living with pain on a surgery waiting list as a result of the COVID lockdown.

In level four, all elective surgeries were cancelled - pushing tens of thousands of Kiwis onto a waiting list backlog.

And now that Auckland's gone into level 3 again, there's a growing concern from health professionals and their patients it's getting worse.

Meet Ella. She's seven-years-old and has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She's living in pain and has been waiting for two separate surgeries for months.

"We had been talking about hand surgery for six months or so, we knew it was coming up. The hip has been on the cards for over a year," her mother Kat Yearbury says.

But Ella was in theatre and about to be sedated when it was suddenly cancelled because of COVID-19.

"We haven't been given specific dates for how long we could be waiting and there's kind of a shrug on the shoulder and a 'who really knows'," Yearbury says.

More than 10,000 patients across New Zealand had their elective surgery cancelled during level 4 lockdown.

So when DHBs began opening the doors again in June - the backlog was extensive.

The data shows the average time patients spent on a waiting list in June 2019 was 67 days. But a year later that increased by another 28 days.

The Health Minister is confident it's being resolved with the $3.9 billion allocated to DHBs in the COVID fund.

"The Government has put more funding in to help clear that first backlog that was caused by COVID-19 lockdown," Chris Hipkins says.

But the Orthopaedic Association disagrees. It says the problem's not just money, there are not enough facilities or specialists.

"We can't just say we will allocate money and it will happen," its president, Peter Robertson, says.

"It's a complex problem that needs to be looked at from several angles in terms of the supply side and providing the services for the demand that exists."

While every DHB has a backlog, some are much higher than others.

Northlanders are currently waiting a whopping 163 days before they can get in the operating room, that's up 52 days on last year.

Those living in Southland face almost 126 days on the waiting list, up 53 days. Hutt Valley DHB has a waiting list of nearly 121 days, 63 days longer than last year's average.

And those in Taranaki spend 110 days waiting, 19 more than last year.

"They're at home with pain, significant disability and they're all left on hold," Robertson says.

Newshub has spoken to the four DHBs with the highest waiting times. Most have replied saying they're working hard to clear the backlog. 

However, Taranaki DHB has said it's very concerned with the situation - they're working at full capacity but even with that the wait times have since deteriorated.

Four months after her surgery was cancelled Ella and her parents are still waiting to hear if they have a date.