NZ Health Minister rolls out nationwide surgical threshold for cataracts
You will likely have heard of the recent changes in Clinical Priority Assessment Criteria (CPAC) scores, which will mean greater access and eligibility to private health services across the country.
In case you missed it, Health Minister Ayesha Verrall confirmed in July this year that the surgical threshold for cataract sufferers across the country will be set at the same level as Auckland’s, which has always been the lowest at 46. Before this change the threshold for the Southern region was the highest in the country at 61 – a level at which patients could not legally drive.
While Te Whatu Ora – Health NZ replaced the previous system of 20 separate District Health Boards a year ago, this did not automatically alter the variety in CPAC scores across the regions. With lobbying from the NZ Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and media coverage the issue was bought to wider attention and onto the desk of the Health Minister.
The Minister stated in a news conference that the change would prompt an initial 3500 more cataract surgeries, a backlog which may take some time to clear. Doing so will mean that many surgeries are outsourced to the private sector, due to public hospitals being at capacity.
The Minister stated in a news conference that the change would prompt an initial 3500 more cataract surgeries, a backlog which may take some time to clear.
For the south, the historically high CPAC score threshold (along with restricted operating theatre availability) has caused problems for many cataract sufferers. This change will hopefully alleviate this challenge in time, although there are reportedly record-breaking waitlists to be cleared in the meantime. $118 million allocated from the health budget will help reduce these waitlists.
This is a process that is expected to take at least a year or two in Canterbury. There is a lot of planning involved and considerable resources required to meet this new workload. At Southern Eye Specialists, surgeons already undertake hundreds of outsourced public cataract surgeries each year. The team are ready and able to do more if required to help reduce the strain on the public system.
Although delivering these extra cataract surgeries is going to take a huge effort from the public and private sector, all in all this is great news for South Islanders. We look forward to sharing more information as it comes to hand.