RELATED: Delay costs Zuvele career, freedom
EDITORIAL: Blame game adds to waiting list pain
A POLITICAL blame game has flared up yet again over elective surgery waiting lists in the North East, but all one Buffalo River woman wants is respite from her pain.
Zuvele Leschen has been on a waiting list for hip replacement surgery at Northeast Health Wangaratta for more than a year.
This week she was told that instead of soon being booked in for the surgery she desperately required, she faced another 12-month wait.
That led the former Indi Labor candidate and ex-Alpine councillor to approach her local member, Benalla MP Bill Sykes.
While she received a prompt response — advising her to be reassessed by her doctor in a bid to be listed as a higher-priority patient — she said it was time more was done to reduce the state’s elective surgery waiting lists.
As of March, the number of Victorians awaiting elective surgeries had blown out to 50,565, up from 10,000 in December.
But Dr Sykes instantly squared off against the federal government, blaming its $460 million cuts in health funding to state hospitals.
He said by the time $107 million of that had been reinstated, thanks to heavy lobbying, hospitals had already reconfigured their budgets for this financial year and been forced to cut staff and surgeries.
Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said Victoria’s elective surgery waiting list had already blown out from 39,363 in September 2010 to 47,792 last December.
“Given the Commonwealth has provided the Victorian Government $264 million specifically to improve both elective and emergency department performance, Victorian patients have been let down,” she said.
Dr Sykes conceded waiting lists were increasing before those cuts.
His Murray Valley counterpart Tim McCurdy agreed.
“It’s always a case of finding where the shortages are and addressing those first. There’s never enough to go around,” he said.
Mr McCurdy said in his discussions with Northeast Health Wangaratta, its funding appeared to be enough, “but that’s not to say we can’t do better”.
Ms Leschen said she hadn’t brought up the issue earlier as she didn’t want to politicise her plight but after being told of the increased waiting time, she “had to speak up”.
“The idea that people are waiting for two years even if they’re not in quite as severe pain as me is just not right.”