Surgical waiting lists are getting worse in several parts of the country, despite moves by the government to try to shrink them.
A planned care taskforce was set up earlier this year to cut the tens of thousands of people waiting for planned (elective) surgery.
The situation has been made worse worse in the first and second Omicron outbreaks, with several hospitals cancelling most planned surgery.
Association of General Surgeons president Vanessa Blair said colleagues in some hospitals told her they were still mostly doing only acute and the most urgent planned operations, such as for cancers.
That meant that little was being done to clear the list of people needing hernia operations, hip replacements and other conditions considered non-urgent.
In some cases lists were growing, she said.
“We can’t do the work – we don’t have the nursing workforce, we don’t have the anaesthetic tech workforce, we don’t have beds in hospitals.”
Some hospitals had three or four theatres not running, she said.
Orthopaedic patients – those who needed operations like hip or joint replacements – were often first to be deferred.
Christchurch surgeon John McKie, past president of the Orthopaedic Association, was regularly having his surgical lists cut. Last month he did three joint replacements in the public system when normally he would do about 15, he said.
He knew of one person considering taking out a reverse mortgage to get their surgery done privately because they were struggling to have a normal life.
The taskforce asked hospitals to give all patients who had been waiting longer than 12 months a surgical booking by August. Te Whatu Ora said more than 3000 did not have one yet.
For those waiting longer than four months, the last available figure was 28,500 in June.
RNZ has been seeking an update from Te Whatu Ora for a month, but has not recieved one yet.