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Published Friday 11 Sep 2020

Recent media coverage of orthopaedic access thresholds for surgery, incident reporting and workforce constraints at Wairarapa Hospital has provided us an excellent opportunity to present our performance to the community.


Reporting on health service data is a complicated business. Data sets are hard to translate and clinical information considered in isolation can be wrongly interpreted. Single pieces of information out of context are not helpful. Because we are such a small DHB, our raw data can skew results.

Wait lists
You’ve heard we offer poor access to service. That is wrong:
From June, we are the lead DHB meeting the target for waiting times for specialist assessment. From July, we have the least number of patients waiting for surgery greater than the target. We fully intend to be the first compliant DHB in the country for waiting times for surgery. Wairarapa DHB is performing well.

Surgical & perioperative services
You’ve heard we have high infection rates. That is wrong:
In 2019, we had two deep orthopaedic surgical site infections from 127 hip and knee operations. So far this year, up to and including July, we have had only one.

We have been working extremely hard in our hospital to improve our perioperative service. Changes have been made, and will continue to be made, and our management team is pleased with the excellent audit results so far.

We all know that as we age our hips and knees often fail us and joint replacements are a common intervention. The orthopaedic surgical intervention rate describes the number of people that have had an elective operation in hospital – for example, a hip or knee joint reconstruction. While in Wairarapa we do have a high threshold for surgery relative to other DHBs (Stuff, 26 August) we are performing extremely well in our surgical rates. Latest published figures show Wairarapa Hospital is 4th of the 20 DHBs in New Zealand for First Specialist Appointments, and 5th for surgical discharges per 100,000 population (March 2020).

What does this mean?

It means Wairarapa people receive excellent access to surgical services relative to the rest of the country. More people are getting new hips and knees here than in many other areas.

An eligible Wairarapa resident that is clinically appropriate for surgery with no conflicting medical or physical barriers, will be waitlisted and receive timely care.

We have worked hard to “catch up” with surgery to reduce the Covid-19 backlog, providing some weekend theatre time. We are heading towards having all patients treated within 4 months of being placed on the surgical waitlist. At present, we have only 8 patients waiting longer than 4 months for orthopaedic surgery.

We are making great progress with our recruitment, and we are doing all we can to fill vacancies and serve our community as best we can.

We have a reporting culture in Wairarapa Hospital and we monitor it closely. This means that we expect staff to log any event, no matter how minor, so we can continually refine our processes and better our patient service. We encourage high reporting to ensure we maximise every opportunity to improve.

We are proud of what we do, and we always want to do better. The DHB organisational dashboard of performance against targets is published HERE

Our goal is to be the best DHB we can be, and we are working extremely hard to achieve that. We expect our community to support our quality improvement journey.

We want to hear your concerns. We value your feedback. We listen, we take notice, and we make the changes needed to make our hospital better.