Lisa Rayner was supposed to be on her honeymoon, proudly showing off to her overseas friends around New Zealand now.
But she is likely to spend Christmas stuck in a bed at Waikato Hospital, who will then be nearly two weeks awaiting surgery on a broken ankle, as staff shortages and pressure from the healthcare system delays the operation that could send her on her way.
Rayner said he has seen patients come and go for more than a week, but he wonders “why not me?” every time surgery is delayed.
“Initially they said they were waiting for the swelling to go down before operating and they did on Friday. They said they would try to get me over the weekend, but that didn’t happen,” Rayner said.
“The same on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… and so on.
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“I’m so exhausted.”
The new bride praises the dedication and skill of the health workers she has come to know and feels for, but says the situation illustrates just how strained the country’s health sector is.
“The nursing staff and orderlies have been very kind and amazing. I understand this is not the fault of any individual.
“They explained to me that they are one operating room less due to personnel problems and I speak with the nurses, and they tell me that many nurses go to Australia because there is more money.
“I fully appreciate it, and I understand that people don’t go into nursing for money, but we should pay them enough to support them.”
Rayner arrived home to New Zealand in March after living in Canada for six years and married Brendon Waterhouse on December 10 in Hamilton.
A New Plymouth cafe is giving away more than $60,000 in vouchers to workers at Te Whatu Ora Taranaki for Christmas.
Their friends, who had come from Canada, would be joining the newlyweds on their honeymoon and Rayner said the couple was excited to show them around the country.
However, two days after the wedding, she tripped while packing and broke her ankle.
After an 18-hour visit to the ED, Rayner was transferred to a ward on December 12. Since then, Rayner said, she was the only original patient left in her ER.
A spokesperson for Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waikato said it was a period of high demand and higher than normal staff illness due to Covid-19. Coping plans included re-prioritizing care for urgent and time-critical cases.
Last week, Waikato Hospital was reduced by three operating rooms and the number of patients operated through the hospital’s main operating room Monday to Friday was 367, with 70-80 patients operated per day. More or less the same was expected this week.
Both acute and elective surgical procedures continued to be outsourced to meet demand, along with procedures performed in the hospital.
“Last week, 21 of our 24 operating rooms were in operation and some of those days 10 acute operating rooms were in operation.”
The hospital only performed elective and time-critical cancer surgeries, and doctors made difficult decisions about priorities.
Rayner hadn’t celebrated Christmas with her family since 2018 and said knowing she might be stuck in hospital was “pretty crushing.”
“It’s very hard, and I just want to be with my nana. She just turned 90 and we don’t get many Christmases with her.
“I’ve always been proud to be a New Zealander but right now I’m ashamed of our healthcare system and can’t believe this is my country.
“I am very disappointed… and I feel a little hopeless. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get fixed, and it’s not an easy fix.
“It’s like a political mood rather than putting the health and well-being of New Zealanders first and it’s really taking a toll on my and my husband’s mental health.”
Rayner stressed that the staff had been incredibly kind to her, but said the healthcare system was running out of capacity.
“No matter who is at fault, we must work collectively to fix it, for the good of all.”
A previous injury from a severely ruptured lumbar disc prevented Rayner from using crutches or sitting upright in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes without severe pain.
“I can’t get out of bed, apart from going to the bathroom or taking a shower, because I can’t support my broken ankle.
“Prior to this ankle injury, I was managing my disc injury with medication and regular movement. My sciatic pain from the ruptured disc is increasing every day and I need more and more pain relievers to tolerate it.”