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'Every day we have to deal with it': Child's 'painful' six-month wait for surgery

Author
Megan Wilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 4 Apr 2023, 9:22AM
A child in Tauranga has been waiting six months for ear surgery at Tauranga Hospital. Photo / Mead Norton
A child in Tauranga has been waiting six months for ear surgery at Tauranga Hospital. Photo / Mead Norton

'Every day we have to deal with it': Child's 'painful' six-month wait for surgery

Author
Megan Wilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 4 Apr 2023, 9:22AM

A Tauranga child has endured a “painful” six-month wait for ear surgery — and still has no confirmed date in sight.

The child’s parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for medical privacy reasons, said the child had an “open wound” on their ear that required draining every day and putting ointment on an already “sensitive and sore” area.

“Instead of it being our nice time before bed where we have cuddles or read a book, I’m having to poke and prod ... [they’re] just so over it being sore and being touched.”

The parent said her child’s wait for surgery had prompted her to buy health insurance because it is “so important now”.

 “The wait is just incredible … why didn’t we have this sooner, we would’ve been in and done by now.”

Figures from Te Whatu Ora Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty show 400 patients are on the wait list for ear, nose and throat surgeries at Tauranga Hospital.

However, more specialists are joining the department in April, May and August, and that will “positively impact wait times for patients”, Te Whatu Ora says.

The parent said her child had a preauricular sinus — a “tiny little hereditary hole” above the ear.

Last year it got infected and the child was put on intravenous antibiotics, but the infection did not clear.

In September, the child was operated on at Tauranga Hospital to drain the infection. At the time, they were told the child would need a second surgery once the infection cleared to remove the sinus tract joined to the hole, to prevent further infections.

The parent thought they would be back soon for the surgery.

In November, the parent received a letter confirming her child had been accepted for surgery, which would take place within four months.

When she followed up in February, she was told it would be “at least another six months”.

“A year in a child’s life is huge,” the parent said.

She said dealing with it for three months had already been “hard enough” because it was “painful” for her child.

“It’s an abscess that’s [an] open wound that drains every day, and we’ve had to put an antibiotic steroid ointment on it every day.”

While the parent said it was “minor” compared with what other people waiting for surgery were dealing with, her child had to sit out from swimming at school every day because they could not get the area wet.

Te Whatu Ora Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty hospital and specialist services interim lead Bronwyn Anstis said of the 400 patients on the wait list, 179 patients were under 18 and 221 patients were 18 or older.

Anstis said 231 patients had been waiting longer than four months for their surgery.

Fifty-two of these patients had a scheduled date at Tauranga Hospital or had been outsourced to a private provider. The remaining 179 patients did not have a scheduled date.

Anstis said nine ear, nose and throat surgeries had been performed, on average, each week in the past eight weeks.

“For context, the service has had one specialist fulltime equivalent vacant for over a year, and this has impacted the number of patients that have been able to be offered treatment locally.

“This has also contributed to wait times being longer than we would like for our patients.”

Anstis said it offered patients publicly funded treatment with a private provider to offset this.

“We are pleased to advise that recruitment has been successful with additional specialists joining the department in April and May 2023, with further appointments in August 2023.

“These new appointments will positively impact wait times for patients.”

Anstis said the spread of Covid continued to disrupt hospital systems internationally, and three years into the pandemic, global health systems were still facing “significant challenges”.

“We appreciate the impact that delays in surgery and treatment have on patients and their whānau, and we are working hard to reduce the waiting times for all patients.

“It is expected that the additional specialist appointments we have now confirmed will have a positive impact on the service capacity.”

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