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Patients waiting for surgery to be asked if they still need operations



Nearly 30,000 patients waiting for elective operations – including hip replacements, hernias and fixes for incontinence – are about to receive letters from Te Whatu Ora asking if they still need surgery.

The Health Ministry said the purpose was to reassure patients and collect up-to-date data. However, doctors feared it would load more cost and stress on patients and GPs.

In an update to GPs, Te Whatu Ora said it was contacting all patients who had been waiting longer than four months, but less than three years, for treatment – to check whether “they have received their treatment or no longer wish to receive treatment”.

General Practice Owners Association chair Tim Malloy agreed the agency needed better data if it was going to get rid of so-called “postcode healthcare” and make treatment nationally consistent.

But he noted it was unlikely that someone’s gallstones would evaporate in four months, or that their crippled hip would miraculously heal itself.

“People will be returning back to their GPs for further assessment, which shifts the cost burden to both the patient and primary care, for something which they’ve already been assessed by primary care as requiring.”

Most people waited months for non-urgent surgery, unless they could afford to go private, he said.

“But those who can’t won’t have any other choices. They have the choice to not be treated until their condition deteriorates further.”

Porirua GP Dr Bryan Betty – chair of General Practice New Zealand – said GPs already bore the brunt of patients’ disappointment and frustration.

“The problem is that when waiting lists start to blow out there’s a flow-on effect back into GPs and the community, because GPs are left picking up the workload with patients.

“And that work isn’t funded either, which is the other problem that we’ve got.”

Te Whatu Ora deserved some credit for trying to make the system fairer – but it needed to acknowledge the extra cost to patients and GPs from this process, he said.

“That really should be subsidised by the government, otherwise they would be through the free public system.”

Paediatric Orthopaedics specialist Haemish Crawford, president of the Orthopaedic Society, said surgeons had long been worried about the accuracy of the ministry’s data, which contradicted their own figures about what was happening.

“The only thing is, if someone has been waiting four months for surgery, it’s pretty clear what they need. I would be concentrating on those who have been waiting six or eight months. But at the end of the day, it will be good to have accurate figures.

“I’m surprised they didn’t do it three years ago.”

Every day at his surgery and at Starship Hospital he saw patients who had waited too long for “non-urgent” operations.

“If children have to wait too long for surgery, then their deformity gets worse, which makes their surgery more difficult, the outcome is not always as good as it might be.

“For adult patients, who are in a lot of pain, waiting for joint replacement or foot surgery or spinal surgery, often their independence is at risk. They might have to give up work or go into care.”

The government should have given the go-ahead six months ago to the society’s plan to do 2000 extra operations over two years, using private hospitals, he said.

“That would be 500 people off the waiting list already.”

Te Whatu Ora responds

In a written response to RNZ, Te Whatu Ora said the letters would not change patients’ priority for treatment – but did not say whether it was considering subsidising extra GP visits.

Planned care, hospital and specialist services manager Duncan Bliss blamed staff shortages and Covid for the waiting list blow-out.

“We acknowledge and understand the impact waiting for treatment has on patients and we are working hard to reduce wait times.

“We want to reassure these patients to let them know they are still on the wait list and provide options for them to get in touch if they have any questions or need to update their details.”

As of Wednesday 24 May, there were just fewer than 29,490 patients who had been waiting more than four months and less than three years for surgical treatment.

Te Whatu Ora had also been in touch with 28 people waiting longer than three years, of whom three were awaiting a confirmed date for treatment. and the rest will get surgery by the end of June.

Source: RNZ

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Christchurch terror attack inquest: ‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John’s specialist paramedics – coroner



A woman who was forced to leave the side of her bleeding husband following the terror attack at Christchurch’s Linwood Islamic Centre only discovered he had died the following day after seeking help from then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Saira Patel’s husband Musa Patel was one of seven people who died after being shot at the Linwood Islamic Centre, following the massacre at nearby Al Noor Mosque on 15 March 2019.

Supported by her son, Patel told the inquest into the deaths that she and her husband were praying in separate parts of the mosque on the day of the attack.

Patel said she thought a tyre had blown when she heard a loud bang. A baby began to cry, and she could soon smell gunpowder.

She yelled, “Someone is shooting, someone is shooting” as people ran to escape.

When Patel found her bleeding husband, she told the Coroners Court she could hear him saying his “last prayer” as if he knew he was about to die.

Imam Hafiz Musa Patel

Musa Patel died at Linwood Islamic Centre on 15 March 2019. Photo: Facebook/ US Embassy Suva

She said she was forced to leave when police arrived and started treating Musa Patel, an order that distressed her to this day.

“I think any dying person who is about to leave this world would be very desperately craving and needing to be close to their loved ones. My presence during his final moments would have made a big difference in my life and I think maybe his last moments of departing this world,” she said.

She did not know her husband had died until the following day, when she approached then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who led her to a counsellor.

Patel said the counsellor showed her a photo of an unidentified man in hospital who was not her husband.

“I knew then that my husband was dead. There was no-one else who could have identified him, and this last unidentified man was my last hope,” she said.

Patel thanked the doctors and paramedics who did everything they could to console her husband in his final moments.

“I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

“I was trying to be with him in that last moment but maybe they were chosen to be with him.”

Dr Alison Wooding from nearby Piki Te Ora Medical Centre was one of the doctors who treated Musa Patel when staff went to the mosque to help the injured.

She told the court he was meant to be the first victim taken to hospital but realised he had died after he was moved onto a stretcher.

Wooding said she and others were talking to Musa Patel the entire time they cared for him, but she did not recall him ever responding.

Police officers gave evidence on Tuesday saying Musa Patel had been able to communicate with them at first but his condition deteriorated over time.

Wooding told the court she felt apprehensive and worried about the situation at the mosque, but safe and protected between armed and vigilant police officers.

29th November 2023 Iain McGregor/The Press/Pool Christchurch Masjidain Attack Coronial hearing. Coroner Brigitte Windley.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley. Photo: The Press / Iain McGregor

‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John emergency response team – coroner

The coroner has queried a “significant blind spot” in the way St John ambulance officers work with specialist paramedics trained to work in dangerous situations.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley questioned St John duty manager Bruce Chubb about the organisation’s response massacre.

Two Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) paramedics were among ambulance officers who went to the scene of the shooting in Linwood Avenue.

No-one from St John attended the Al Noor scene in a SERT capacity.

Chubb told the Coroners Court that SERT teams worked under police and it was not uncommon for St John not to know when they had been requested, where they were, or what they were doing.

In response, coroner Windley said: “My concern is that that creates a significant blind spot for St John, doesn’t it?”

“Isn’t it that these are critical resources in terms of closing that care gap for people who are dying and injured and being able to get a response in, and you’ve got no visibility about where they are and even if in fact they’ve been deployed?”

041223 CHRIS SKELTON Witness, Bruce Chubb from St John command and control during the Christchurch terror attack inquest held at the Christchurch Justice precinct.

St John’s Bruce Chubb. Photo: Stuff / Chris Skelton

Chubb said he was not suggesting it was “okay” that St John did not know where SERT officers were but said it was the practice at the time.

He was not aware of any changes to the SERT policy since the terror attack.

Chubb told the coroner he thought it was “always nice to know” where resources were, to which she replied, “I would suggest it’s more than nice to know. I would suggest that St John needs to know”.

Chubb earlier told the inquest that he believed general ambulance officers should not have entered either mosque immediately after the shootings because of the safety risk.

Windley said the court was concerned St John ambulance officers had to breach the organisation’s policy in order to get an emergency response in place.

“Do you agree that that’s fundamentally a problem?” she asked.

“Yes,” Chubb replied.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chubb told counsel for families Kathryn Dalziel that the terror attack was a catastrophic event that he did not expect and was never prepared for.

“I don’t believe any of my colleagues were either, so it was fundamentally overwhelming,” he said.

The inquest will examine the following 10 issues over seven weeks:

  • Events of 15 March 2019 from the commencement of the attack until the terrorist’s formal interview by police
  • Response times and entry processes of police and ambulance officers at each mosque
  • Triage and medical response at each mosque
  • The steps that were taken to apprehend the offender
  • The role of, and processes undertaken by, Christchurch Hospital in responding to the attack
  • Coordination between emergency services and first responders
  • Whether the terrorist had any direct assistance from any other person on 15 March 2019
  • If raised by immediate family, and to the extent it can be ascertained, the final movements and time of death for each of the deceased
  • The cause of death for each of the victims and whether any deaths could have been avoided
  • Whether Al Noor Mosque emergency exit door in the southeast corner of the main prayer room failed to function during the attack and, if so, why?

The inquest continues.


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Iconic Hastings water park Splash Planet reopens after $2.4m makeover



A handful of hardy souls braved heavy rain on Monday to be the first to experience the spruced-up Splash Planet amusement park in Hastings.

Hastings District Council voted in May to spend $2.4 million on the old and tired park, with some attractions in desperate need of repair.

Covid-related closures, staffing problems and damage from Cyclone Gabrielle had plagued it in the last few years, said council aquatics, sports and recreation manager Tom Page.

“The wet weather, the cyclone… and just a combination of the park getting to 25 years on from the original build of Splash Planet.

“You’ve just got a lot of work that needs to be done, renewals, and all this sort of stuff. “Hopefully it’s just the start of a journey of the next 10 to 20 years of improvement at the park.”

Splash Planet.

Splash Planet. Photo: Lauren Crimp / RNZ

The changes included a fresh lick of paint all over, landscaping, relocating some attractions, new electric motors for the bumper boats, a redesign of the pirate pool playground, and fixing up the iconic pumpkin and shoe – although they were now ornamental rather than play features.

But much of the cash was spent behind the scenes giving everything a good tune-up before it opened for the season on Monday – ensuring all the old favourite attractions were back on offer, Page said.

Tom Page at Splash Planet.

Tom Page at Splash Planet. Photo: Lauren Crimp / RNZ

“You won’t see a direct $2.4 million in front of you when you walk through the door, but everything working is probably a good sign of, you know, that’s money well spent.”

There were a few false starts on day one – some of the Jungle Jeeps struggled to get going. And the pouring rain kept the masses away.

“It definitely will mean that there’s probably a few less people through the gate which is disappointing, because obviously we want to start with a bang, and get people in and show them what’s different, and you know, obviously see the smiles on people’s faces,” Page said.

But having the park back open was a win for tourists and locals alike, he said.

“Up and down the country, if you talk about Hastings and what it’s known for, Splash Planet is one of those things. We’re really proud of it, and we obviously want to keep it going, and we want people to come here and experience it, and enjoy it with us.”

The Burling family.

The Burling family. Photo: Lauren Crimp / RNZ

Among the smiling faces on opening day were the Burling family, who had travelled down from Auckland with Splash Planet on the holiday to-do list.

“We’ve actually had this booked for quite a while,” Matthew Burling said. “We’ve got three kids between us, they just love swimming parks, and we heard about this online so we thought we’d come check it out.”

The hydroslides and the Fantasyland Express train were top of the list for the day, the kids said.


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Law Society requests PM to withdraw Vosarogo’s appointment as AG because he cannot lawfully take up the position Society will pursue this matter in court if forced to do so, but hopes that it will not be necessary – Clarke



The Fiji Law Society has written to Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka expressing its concern regarding the reported appointment of Filimoni Vosarogo as Attorney General of Fiji, and requesting the Fiji Government to withdraw Vosarogo’s announced appointment as Attorney General.

Society President, Wylie Clarke says they have informed the Prime Minister that it cannot support, and must record its strong objection to Vosarogo’s appointment.

The Society advised the Prime Minister that Vosarogo is disqualified from holding the office of Attorney General under section 96(2)(b) of the 2013 Constitution.

Clarke says the appointment cannot be lawfully made.

The Society noted that it is a matter of public record that Vosarogo, as a legal practitioner, pleaded guilty in a number of disciplinary proceedings before the Independent Legal Services Commission.

Clarke says compliance with the laws of Fiji is not a matter of choice.

He says a fundamental principle of the rule of law is that the law applies equally to everyone including the Government of the day.

The Law Society President also says the Society expressed concern about comments attributed to Vosarogo in the media in which he is reported saying that anyone who disagrees with his appointment can take the matter to court.


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