Ronald Birkbeck at home in Iluka.
Ronald Birkbeck at home in Iluka.

IT?S ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN SURGERY

By TOBY WALKER

FOR the last two months pain has been a daily companion for Ronald Birkbeck.

Since being diagnosed with problems with the veins in his legs at the beginning of April, the 73-year-old Iluka resident has had to rest constantly.

Within a few hours of waking, he finds himself having to rest and put his legs up to stop them turning blue and allevaite the associated pain that comes from moving around.

It was a problem Mr Birkbeck thought he would be rid of by now.

In April Lismore-based specialist Dr Deepak Williams booked Mr Birkbeck in for urgent vascular surgery which was to be performed at the Maclean District Hospital on May 5.

Just two days before the surgery Mr Birkbeck received a phone call from the hospital advising him the procedure would have to be postponed because no anaesthetist was available.

Ten days later Mr Birkbeck was advised the procedure would go ahead as planned, this time on June 2.

But last week Mr Birkbeck was again informed no anaesthetist would be available and the procedure was once again postponed.

He is yet to be given a new date by the hospital for the surgery.

The situation has left Mr Birkbeck looking for alternatives but his options are limited.

He could register for the surgery to be carried out in Ballina but has been advised that he could wait up to nine months to be seen.

As a pensioner who is claiming the operation through Medicare, the cost of having the operation done privately is not financially viable.

Mr Birkbeck's frustration took him last week to the office of Clarence MP Steve Cansdell.

Mr Cansdell says Mr Birkbeck's situation is indicative of the staffing problems that plague North Coast health providers.

"For every resident who approaches me with their story about how the government is denying them treatment, there must be dozens more who suffer in silence," he said. "The government is failing the North Coast on health with promised upgrades at Grafton and Lismore hospitals not being delivered and the planned closure of Coraki Hospital ."

Mr Cansdell said he had written to North Coast Area Health Service boss Chris Crawford demanding he expedite Mr Birkbeck's case.



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