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Grandmother waiting for knee surgery for three years

Brigid O’Connell From: Sunday Herald Sun August 21, 2011 12:00AM

Doris SwanssonDoris Swansson, 62, has been waiting three years for a knee operation. Picture: Mike Keating Herald Sun

A ST ALBANS grandmother says she has abandoned all hope of undergoing a knee replacement in the public health system after having her operation cancelled eight times in the past three months.

The elective surgery saga comes as the State Government has appointed a panel to oversee Victoria’s first publication of “hidden” wait times.

Doris Swansson, 62, has been waiting for surgery since injuring her knee three years ago.

But after waiting 18 months for a referral to a Western Health surgeon – which unwittingly saw her waiting for an arthritis clinic appointment – it was another eight months before she had an arthroscope.

She has since taken out private health insurance – eating up a quarter of her weekly pension – in what she sees as her only option to have surgery.

“I’m feeling lucky that I took it out now, even though sometimes I’ll only have $30 left a week for food and the rest after paying my bills,” Ms Swansson said.

“I just limp around these days, it’s the normal walking movement that causes all the problems and I’m always in pain.

“You pay your taxes all your life, but when you need help you’re left housebound.”

Western Health divisional director of surgical services Claire Culley said the operations had been delayed three times to make room for emergency cases. Ms Culley said the operation was cancelled twice because Ms Swansson’s request to have her own blood collected for transfusion during the surgery could not be met at short notice.

Meanwhile, the State Government has appointed a three-member panel to audit hospital elective surgery and outpatient waiting lists, helping establish a “treat in turn” system to ensure patients are treated anywhere across the system.

Eastern Health board director Stuart Alford, Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Stephen Parnis and Latrobe Regional Hospital chief Peter Craighead will report to Health Minister David Davis within six months.

They will also improve the consistency of elective surgery categorisation across the health system, to help reduce inequity throughout the network by grouping patients with similar conditions in similar time frames.