Pressure on Tairāwhiti Orthopaedic Service

12 February 2018

Ensuring people get specialist orthopaedic surgery when they need it is the priority at Hauora Tairāwhiti as it faces a shortage of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

“There is a shortage of Orthopaedic Specialists nationally so these positions are proving challenging to fill,” says Dr Johan Peters, Clinical Director Surgical Services. “We have recruited but the surgeons do not start until later in the year; Dr Peter Birch is expected to join the team in April and the other surgeon in August.”

“As a result of vacancy, planned and unplanned leave our Orthopaedic team is reduced to two Specialists covering the service at present." 

“For the next three weeks, Hauora Tairāwhiti will provide a weekday acute orthopaedic service including fracture clinics. For overnight and weekend cover Waikato Hospital and Hauora Tairāwhiti’s General Surgical and Physician Teams will provide support. From the end of February there will be a further six weeks of normal acute services but limited planned appointments and surgeries,” Dr Peters added.

“While we have had vacancies for some time we have had good support from our current team and locum surgeons which has resulted in a number of surgeries being completed ahead of our planned target. There have been delays however for people waiting to be seen for their first assessment with an Orthopaedic Specialist.”

We appreciate this is not an ideal position for our community and we are working hard to secure a full service (five surgeons) again as soon as possible, says Surgical Clinical Care Manager Lynsey Bartlett. “In the meantime, we are grateful to our colleagues from other specialties who are stepping in to help out. We continue to look for locum doctors to boost our service in the short term.”

Orthopaedic surgery focuses on treating injuries to the musculoskeletal system - which includes joints, tendons and the skeleton - especially knee, hip, shoulder and spine problems. As our population ages, the demand for orthopaedic surgery continues to grow. Last year Hauora Tairāwhiti performed 286 planned surgeries including 124 knee and hip replacements. So far this year (July 2017 – June 2018), 163 surgeries have been completed including 107 hip and knee replacements.