Headlines you won’t see at the NZ Herald: Operations up massive 37% since 2008

If I provide data to a newspaper (and they’ve even won awards off of the back of that info) it is dirty politics, but when a politician does it the Herald journalist takes it and runs a negative hit job on the government and it is business as usual.

Despite figures showing a massive increase in elective surgery since National took over the NZ Herald decides to put NZ First’s negative spin on the headline and the article.

And don’t you just love the weaselly way they introduce the fact that it was NZ First who slipped them the numbers.

The Government’s much-publicised increase in hip, knee and other elective operations has been questioned in light of data which appeared to show the proportion of people missing out on treatment was growing.

But officials say growing waiting lists and a rising number of patients leaving hospital untreated do not tell the whole story.

The number of patients getting elective surgery has steadily increased over the past decade – especially after it was made a national health target in 2007. Since National came to power in 2008, the number of operations has lifted from 118,000 to 162,000 a year.

However, data released under the Official Information Act shows the proportion of patients on waiting lists who were leaving hospital untreated was also rising over the same period. As many as 30 per cent on waiting lists in some regions had their operation delayed or cancelled.

At Auckland District Health Board, there was a waiting list of 27,200 people for elective surgery last year. Of that number, 4558 patients – nearly 20 per cent – were admitted but left hospital without treatment. Last year up to November, 3822 patients out of 22,346 left untreated.

Sounds official doesn’t it, it is not until later that you find out where the data actually came from.

New Zealand First health spokeswoman Barbara Stewart, who provided the data to the Herald, said the ratio of treated to untreated had “markedly deteriorated” over the past decade.

And right at the bottom, long after people have digested a misleading headline and been bored to death with meaningless figure we find the real gold.

I’m surprised the Herald left this in.

Asked about the figures, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman pointed to the dramatic increase in total operations under National – up 37 per cent since 2008.

“This increase in access is supporting more people to be seen, a key approach in addressing … demand.”

The Government committed a further $27.5 million a year in this year’s Budget to meet increased demand for elective surgery.

Trust the NZ Herald to tell you the truth?

Not likely, mostly it is spin to undermine good news. There were many ways Isaac Davidson could have written that up but then again look who he socialises with…


– The NZ Herald


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  • dgrogan

    And to think I used to read the Herald every day for decades. Not anymore.
    As an aside, I see in that picture there are plenty of paper towels provided to wipe up their leftist dribble. No need for the Herald then.

    • Woody

      To be fair, I believe that photo was taken at the taxpayer funded journalists self congratulatory booze up at the close of parliament 2014 so paper towels would have been needed to wipe their poor little lefty fingers and mouths after eating and drinking the rich prick capitalist funded goodies.

  • Gaynor

    Dishonesty in Journalism ..While all over the world journalists are standing up for their rights , left wing ‘reporters’ in NZ are distorting facts with distorted facts. Shame

  • Ratchette

    Hip replacements involve sawing, drilling, and hammer work to put it simply. There are some people who are not suitable for treatment because their bones are too fragile.

    • Steve

      Its not their bones that are the problem. Its most often their hearts kidneys and lungs that are at the end of the road

  • Grizz30

    What were they in hospital for? These patients may have beeen on the waiting list for elective joint surgery, but they are entitled to have other illnesses. Other illnesses that without treatment would have made a general anesthetic more dangerous.

  • Pete

    LOL..who’s the creepy dude with the big roll of Kleenex??!!

    • Aucky

      John Armstrong.

  • Iera

    At Auckland District Health Board, there was a waiting list of 27,200 people for elective surgery last year. Of that number, 4558 patients – nearly 20 per cent – were admitted but left hospital without treatment. Last year up to November, 3822 patients out of 22,346 left untreated.

    4558 patients untreated of 27200 is 16.75 %, not nearly 20%

    And one assumes the second sentence implies the through-put in December, which is assumed to be 27,200 less 22,346 – so 4854 patients of which 736 unfortunate people were untreated, but that percentage, 15.16%, is 1.59% better than the preceding 11 months, and very much closer to 15% than the quoted 20%.

    • Bryan

      would be interesting to see a brakedown of the what elective surgeries the 27000 are waiting for and also more information as to why the 4854 were not treated seems a very high number for people admitted and not treated,i.e serious enough to be admitted but what happened ?

    • Steve

      The co morbidity of a population sample that gets admitted for elective surgery, thst means a highish average age and lowish fittnes, would easily be 16-20% . Co morbidities are the most common cause of being turned down or turned away. Heart and respiratory conditions most often. They are refered on for other treatments, assessments etc until they are fit for surgery. All surgeons want to have their patients wake up after the case.

      • Wendy

        Also, patients come in for a scheduled procedure, booked in, etc, then are bumped off the surgery list to make way for acute patients who need urgent surgery, ie, they cannot wait because they are way sicker with possibly life threatening injuries and conditions.

  • Jas

    Why anyone thinks that ‘ANY’ government is going to eradicate waiting lists is beyond me. The Senior Doctors have a vested interest in having waiting lists (money) so don’t expect them to dissappear anytime soon.

    • dgrogan

      And there will always be a lag between demand and healthcare supply, until we live through the BabyBoomer bubble.

  • 1951

    As one who aims is to avoid coming under a surgeon’s knife, I listened with interest when Brucey-on-zb raised this matter in the wee small hours earlier. There was one caller, I think from Chch, call in to say that he had been turned away from having spinal/disk operation 3 times. Bruce of course tried to heat-up the topic but I didn’t hear another call on the subject. ( I did however drift-off later waiting).

  • cows4me

    Go easy on Barbara Stewart, she’s very upset, she’s been waiting for a brain implant for years.

  • Platinum Fox

    I’m struggling to understand NZ First’s and The Horrid’s take on these statistics.

    If the number of operations performed increases then Joe and Jo Public, who each have a condition that is marginal in relation to a need for specialist treatment, are in my view more likely to be referred by their health professionals based on a (possibly misplaced) perception that the threshold has moved and their chances of surgery have improved. Thus the waiting list is likely to increase.

    A proper analysis by Mr Davidson would have compared the figures taking into account population growth and changes in population demographics over a decent period of time.

    Unfortunately, the article does not contain the data related to Barbara Stewart’s claim that the ratio of treated to untreated had “markedly deteriorated” over the past decade. However, I would note that if the number of operations completed is up 37% and the proportion of people on the waiting list who have been admitted but not operated on (for reasons of unsuitability such as other health issues which need to be cleared up first) is reasonably level at about 17%, then the likelihood is that the ratio of treated to untreated has improved and probably quite markedly.

    • dgrogan

      I guess it all depends on the motivation of the “Journalist”, PF. If it were to inform, your analysis would have been very helpful. But if it were to “influence” or “manipulate” the reader, the facts are often fudged or ignored, to strengthen the narrative, as was clearly the case here.

  • Michael_l_c

    As with all the statistics referred to by politicians & msm, they put their slant on it.
    Lies, damn lies & statistics.
    If you are interested try to get the raw statistics/numbers & if it is a survey, what the questions were. You will be un/surprised or dismayed at the deceit that you find.

  • corporate refugee

    A good example of why I, and thousands of alienated readers like me, no longer add to the Herald’s readership or viewing statistics. I’ve heard it said that the MSM is dying a slow death, but the Herald almost seems to want to hasten the process by committing suicide.

  • Dog Breath

    I can recall when it seemed like the tv news always had some tragic health story to tell. We had people being flown across the tasman to make up the shortfall in health care within nz then all of a sudden this stopped. Its now rare to see or hear of such stories. The only thing thats occurred in this period was the change of govt from Labour to National. What seems to have occured is a bit of arse kicking, effective planning and use of technology to improve efficency and the stories disappeared. I recently watched a TV program about a health issue that Cunliffe as MOH decided to sit on his hands rather than make a decision to resolve the issue. This was quickly resolved by the change in govt I.e a favorable decision was quickly made by the new national health minister when presented with the same information. You will never read a story about this in MSM its only realised by observation and a bit of dot joining.

  • Backdoor

    Does a referral to a hospital indicate that a person needs treatment? Or is it that the GP would like a second opinion? Surely it is better to refer to a Specialist than risk overlooking the need?

    If more GP’s seek Specialist advise on treatment for a particular case does that indicate that an operation may not be the preferred treatment.

    • Steve

      Dead right…GPs arent trained to assess the need for surgery, but they are trained to look for symptoms and tell tale signs that surgery may be an option.
      The GP refers to the hospital ( eg., the orthopaedic clinic) so the patient can see a specialist, or as most often happens, have their file triaged by the clinic gatekeeper ( a specialist, but without an appointment) to see how urgent their disease progression is. As a high percentage arent that urgent they get reffered back to the GP to keep an eye on their progress.
      It’s a system that is not perfect but it works.

  • minnie

    While waiting for hubby to be operated on at Waikato, there were a couple of people booked in who arrived with open sores so were told to go home again, guess the risk of those flesh eating bugs is a good reason not to go ahead!

  • Wallace Westland

    Does Armstrong keep the two rolls of handee towels close by to wipe up all the dribble he comes out with?