Staff shortages at Christchurch Hospital have prevented a Christchurch woman from receiving bowel surgery that would cure her of “agonising” daily pain.
The only surgeon able to carry out such an operation doesn’t have the necessary staff to complete the procedure and is currently prioritising emergency cancer treatments.
Christchurch woman Kris Karstens found herself in excruciating pain over Easter last year.
“My stomach blew out to like I was nine months pregnant, I was in absolute agony,” she told the Herald.
“The hospital said I had a twisted bowel and I asked what the cause was, they said it was just bad luck and [the pain] would happen again.”
Nine hospital visits later, Karstens was finding her day-to-day life severely impacted by her new condition, preventing her from carrying out simple tasks in her work and around the home.
She runs a small country pub, which previously she’d enjoyed managing and found easy to keep on top of.
“I’m not OCD or anything, now from every waking moment I have to watch what I eat and take this powdered stuff, which kind of helps, but it’s on my mind the whole time,” she said.
“My business and personal life are all suffering as [my condition] takes priority when it really shouldn’t.”
The doctors that Karstens encountered during her health journey have been “more than helpful”, she’d been told by Te Whatu Ora she could expect an operation to be carried out on her bowels in June of that year.
Talking to the surgeon based in Christchurch Hospital, she quickly realised that wouldn’t be the case.
“He told me that was a lie, they’re only doing emergency surgery for cancer patients,” said Karstens.
Kris Karstens runs a small country pub, which previously she’d enjoyed managing and found easy to keep on top of but now proves tricky. Photo / Supplied
“Since I don’t have cancer - which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong - I’m at the bottom of the waiting list as [my condition is] not life-threatening as such.”
The situation has since changed further.
Karstens learned, through her GP, that numerous anaesthetic nurses who are needed for the operating room have been leaving in droves, many for Australia where working conditions are better.
This means the surgeon required to carry out Karsten’s critical surgery won’t have the team to do so.
“So it used to be because of cancer, now it’s because they don’t have the staff.”
The Canterbury woman finds herself between a rock and a hard place, finding hospital staff are sympathetic to her situation but nowhere to turn for a practical solution.
Her debilitating illness continues to haunt her.
Christchurch nursing staff have been leaving in droves, causing shortage issues that impact on surgery wait times. Photo / Supplied
“The Government has to do something about this shortage,” said Karstens.
“Others are in exactly the same boat and instead of spending money on things that aren’t as important as the health service, [the Government] needs to be held accountable.
“It’s very, very frustrating. Especially when it takes over your whole fricken life.”
Te Whatu Ora’s Hospital and Specialist Services lead, Lisa Blackler, said she apologised to anyone finding their surgery schedule disrupted or non-existent.
She said her teams are working “incredibly hard” to ensure they’re doing what they can to rectify the issue.
Hospital staff will be opening new lists when they have the staff available to do so - for example, she hopes eight agency anaesthetic technicians on their payroll will help run more lists than their base schedule.
“We are very hopeful we can shift the base schedule as our resourcing constraints are lifting,” said Blackler.
“Anyone whose condition is worsening while they wait for surgery should go back to their GP or healthcare team, as they will update the hospital specialists.”
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