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Patients on hold for eye surgery

HUNDREDS of people are waiting for cataract extractions at Kurri Kurri District Hospital where it is taking an average of 118 days to have this type of surgery, a new report shows.
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PATIENCE: Many Hunter residents are waiting to have cataract surgery, with the region falling below the state average for waiting periods.

The Bureau of Health Information’s Hospital Quarterly showed Kurri Kurri’s hospital fell below the state average in two categories of timely access to elective surgery between the months of July and September.

While 100 per cent of urgent surgery was done on time, only 90 per cent of its semi-urgent surgery was carried out within 90 days and 93 per cent of non-urgent surgery completed within a year.

Almost 900 patients at the hospital were waiting to have eye surgery by the end of September, the report showed.

Included in that number were more than 700 patients requiring cataract extractions, a procedure which can fix a condition which has the potential to be socially debilitating because it can stop people from being able to see or read.

Hunter New England Health District chief executive Michael DiRienzo said that ophthalmic surgery was scheduled according to clinical urgency.

“The vast majority of patients are receiving surgery within these clinical timeframes,” he said.

The report also revealed that patients requiring hip replacements at John Hunter Hospital were having to wait an average of 219 days, while those needing total knee replacements had a median wait of 314 days.

“Demand for orthopaedic services in Hunter New England is high,” Mr DiRienzo acknowledged.

“A number of strategies have been implemented to help manage this demand, including distributing patients across specialists and hospitals that have capacity to provide care sooner.

“In addition John Hunter Hospital is implementing an outpatient physiotherapy initiative that will provide appropriate patients with conservative management of their conditions and ensuring that these patients are only having major surgery if appropriate.”

John Hunter Hospital again failed to meet the NSW target of 81 per cent of patients leaving the emergency department within four hours, only achieving 61 per cent in the three months to September.

Maitland Hospital achieved 66 per cent and the Calvary Mater achieved 69per cent.

Mr DiRienzo noted that John Hunter Hospital had experienced a 5per cent increase in emergency department presentations compared to the same time last year.

“The average time in which patients left John Hunter Hospital’s emergency department was three hours and 30 minutes,” he said.

“This means most patients are being seen by their doctor and either discharged or admitted to a bed less than four hours from arrival.’’

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