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Aged Care / Health

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Elderly Kiwis fund surgeries by selling their homes, Grey Power says

Elderly Kiwis are being forced to sell their homes to fund elective surgeries and avoid long-term pain and disability, Grey Power says.

The organisation found 56 of 1500 members it surveyed said they had sold their homes to pay for private elective surgery as they were unable to access the procedure through the public system.

Grey Power president Tom O’Connor​ said successive governments had not addressed the impact of the aging population on the demand for elective procedures.

“If you don’t fund it adequately people become inactive, disabled and become a huge burden.”

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The survey found 209 members had been waiting for six years for surgery, while 22 were declined because they were too old.

Orthopaedic surgeons had joined Grey Power in calling for the Government to address the problem.

Hip and knee replacements alone were forecast to double by 2026.

New Zealand Orthopaedic Association (NZOA) president and Tauranga surgeon Dr Richard Keddell said the health system would not be able to cope with future surgery demand.

“This means New Zealanders needing joint replacements and other orthopaedic surgery will have to live in pain because they can’t get the surgery they need.”

O’Connor said the survey showed clearly there was already a crisis.

“The crisis is not looming; it’s here and it has been coming for some time.”

Keddell agreed demand was already outstripping supply and said orthopaedic surgeons were rationing procedures for patients they knew would benefit from surgery.

A national scoring system to determine severity of symptoms was used differently by district health boards to manage patient flows, which resulted in variations in access to procedures around the country.

“The reality is all of us in all the regions are saying no to people that we feel we should be able to operate on.”

The majority of patients declined surgery were surprisingly understanding, but some became upset, angry or cried at the news, Keddell said.

The increasing demand for elective surgery was a result of the ageing population, more joint replacements and technological advances.

“It’s not just about having enough orthopaedic surgeons – we also need more anaesthetists, nurses and theatres. Teams take time to train, theatres take time to build.”

The current approach to planning for future orthopaedic surgery demand was “arbitrary and disconnected”, he said.

Ministry of Health group manager integrated service design Clare Perry said the Government was committed to “supporting improved access to orthopaedic care” and already collaborated with agencies and health service providers involved in the delivery of elective surgery.

“Rather than a specific taskforce, we would welcome the input of the NZOA into existing processes and discussions.”

Facts and figures

▪ Hip and knee replacements are predicted to double by 2026.

▪ Nine to 12 orthopaedic surgeons are trained each year, but this will need to increase by another 25 by 2026.

▪ Ministry of Health data shows orthopaedics are the worst surgical specialty for access to elective clinics.

▪ There are about 8700 primary knee and hip replacements carried out in public hospitals each year.

▪ 73 per cent of all hip and 77 per cent of knee replacements are performed on patients aged over 60 years old.

▪ The overall decline rate for elective orthopaedic surgery, such as hip and joint replacements, was 16 per cent across all health boards.

 – Stuff

Labour, the Green Party and Grey Power’s aged-care inquiry to begin tomorrow

A new, Opposition-led inquiry into the state of aged care in New Zealand kicks off tomorrow.

Labour and the Greens have again joined forces with Grey Power to hold hearings around the country on the conditions and care for people in rest homes and residential facilities.

It comes six years after the parties held the Aged Care review, and would investigate whether the problems identified in the 2010 report were still occurring.

That inquiry concluded that care for the elderly was nearly at crisis point and said the sector was in “desperate need of a revolution“.

Elderly look at next step: Mobility scooters

Wally Robinson knows when he is due to renew his driver’s licence in two years’ time that he won’t pass.

“I’ve got limited use of my right foot, and you obviously need that foot to accelerate and brake,” the 80-year-old said.

“I can manage if I don’t go too fast. But the doctor warned me to keep away from heavy traffic.”

So he’s already one step ahead with plans to purchase a mobility scooter to help get him around Hamilton.

Study To Use Online Tracking Devices To Monitor Dementia Patients

Dementia sufferers could be monitored with online tracking devices which would record every move they make, say scientists.

British researchers are studying the use of movement trackers which can give dementia patients and their carers intimate details about their lives, including when they go to bed and how much time they spend sitting in front of the television.

Dr Chris Pickford, of the University of Salford, said the technology could provide unique insights into patients’ conditions and help spot problems before they become serious.

Aim To Make Shingles Vaccine Free For Over-65s

The drug-buying agency Pharmac is aiming to make the costly shingles vaccine free to everyone over 65 within two years.

About 13,000 New Zealanders contract the debilitating illness each year, several hundred are hospitalised with complications, and some suffer lasting pain.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus and commonly strikes people after age 50, with a sharp rise in cases in people over 60.

The first vaccine against shingles was developed two years ago, and is available from GPs for about $200.

Fluoridation move leaves bad taste for TDC

A central government announcement on fluoridation has left a bad taste in mouths of several Tasman district councillors.

The government says increasing access to fluoridated water would improve high rates of preventable tooth decay.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne this week announced plans to transfer decision-making powers on fluoridating water supplies from local councils to district health boards.

Coleman said New Zealand had high rates of preventable tooth decay and increasing access to fluoridated water would improve oral health.

Elderly staying in bed to avoid turning the heater on

Some elderly people are staying in bed for as long as three days to avoid the sting of winter power bills.

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said health workers had reported more older people were either going without heating to avoid high winter power bills or struggling to pay monthly bills as high as $500.

They instead hunkered down in bed – “the warmest place in the house” – for two to three days at a time, making them more susceptible to mobility problems.

Survey shows doctors, nurses more involved in ‘end-of-life’ decisions

Doctors and nurses are playing increasing roles in prescribing, supplying or administering drugs that may hasten a patient’s death, according to new research.

A Nelson doctor says the study is a timely reminder for people to think about their options for end of life care.

A University of Auckland study anonymously surveyed 650 GPs, with 16 reporting prescribing, supplying or administering a drug with the explicit intention of bringing death about more quickly.

Vulnerable, elderly exploited in buying hearing aids

An elderly war veteran was charged $6000 for replacement hearing aids he did not need, as audiologists with ties to manufacturers are accused of exploiting vulnerable people for their own profit-making.

An independent audiologist, who will not be named over concerns of backlash within the industry, said the man was told his two-year-old hearing aids were too outdated to be tuned, and he was persuaded to buy new hearing aids at a cost of $6000.