Man begs ‘please cut off my toe’
MICHAEL Latham lives each day in agony, describes his pain as "20 out of 10" and sleeps as much as possible to escape the severe discomfort he is enduring.
The Queenstown father-of-six lost the big toe on his right foot after a motorbike crash at Tarraleah in 2018 and has had complications ever since, including several infections.
He now needs surgery to remove the toe next to where the big toe was, but has been languishing on category two of the elective surgery waiting list for more than 390 days.
This is more than four times what is recommended - category two patients are considered semi-urgent and are supposed to be treated within 90 days.
Mr Latham is one of at least 11,307 Tasmanians currently waiting for elective surgeries, but that figure is only current to March and likely to have been worsened by the pausing of most procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But despite countless trips to the doctor and the Royal Hobart Hospital's emergency department out of desperation, the 43-year-old is still waiting for his surgery.
"I mostly spend my time asleep because I'm not in pain when I'm asleep,'' he said.
"I've been ringing up trying to get a date for something to look forward to. I do understand category one is for emergencies but enough is enough."
When the pain is at its worst, Mr Latham said his mental health has suffered considerably.
"I'm that much in pain that I'm angry,'' he said.
Mr Latham said after contact with Health Minister Sarah Courtney's office last week, he again went to the emergency department at the RHH.
"They gave me four tablets and sent me home,'' he said. "Nothing happened at all."
"I'm on five or six different pain medications which is doing nothing."
He now says he has to get a referral from his doctor to attend a chronic pain clinic and is no closer to getting his surgery.
Ms Courtney said it would be "inappropriate to discuss an individual patient's care", but said the government did not want to see Tasmanians waiting too long for surgeries.
"We acknowledge that many Tasmanians and their families have been impacted by the disruptions to elective surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic,'' she said.
"There are currently more than 1000 public elective surgeries being delivered each month, and the Tasmanian Health Service will continue to deliver procedures as quickly as possible."
Greens' health spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said the number of patients admitted for emergency procedures from the elective surgery waiting list jumped 28 per cent from June last year to March this year.
"When people are denied lifesaving urgent care for long periods, it's not surprising - but totally avoidable - they end up needing emergency surgery,'' she said.
Dr Woodruff said the spiralling waiting list predated the COVID-19 pandemic and suggested the private system should be used to help bring it down.
Originally published as Man begs 'please cut off my toe'