Angela Wilson and Nelson MP Nick Smith. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Seeing clear after cataract surgery offer


A Nelson woman who has broken three bones while waiting for life-changing eye surgery cannot understand why the Government was willing to pay more to alter her home than to pay for her operation.

Angela Wilson says that her cataracts were affecting her quality of life but was denied treatment through Nelson Marlborough Health after filling out the “impact on life” questionnaire.

This was because she only had cataracts in one eye.

“I was told by the specialist at the hospital that I was pretty much going to have to lose vision in my other eye before anything was going to happen,” she says.

“I have quite an intense fear that it’s only a matter of time that I’m going to fall down these stairs and break something and do some damage.”

The number of surgeries for cataracts in the Top of the South region peaked at 573 in 2016-17, but last year was at its lowest in eight years.

Private surgery for one eye costs $4000, which Angela says is too unaffordable.

She says she cannot understand why one of the solutions to her cataracts was being offered by the Government was making alterations to her property.

Nelson MP Nick Smith says those missing out on the surgery because of the survey was a “tragic story”.

“It is crazy economics that the Government is prepared to spend $6000 on home alterations to make Angela’s home disability accessible, but not the $4000 to get rid of the disability.

“We are having people kept out of work, not having a driver’s licence, repeatedly turning up to hospital with broken bones, but not able to find the $4000 to get their elective operation.”

Last week Angela helped launch a petition that asks that the House of Representatives investigate the 27 per cent decline in cataract surgeries in the Top of the South from 2017 to 2019, to increase the funding and improve criteria for cataract surgery to ensure more New Zealanders can access the procedure.

Nelson Marlborough Health suggested to Angela that she try other ways to get treatment, including The Fred Hollows Foundation, Christchurch Charity Hospital and Auckland Regional Charity Hospital.

However, as Angela is a beneficiary, she says these options would not include flights to get her there and Work and Income were unable to help.

Nelson-Marlborough DHB says it’s remodelled its services to meet demands as the population ages and acknowledged Angela’s feedback.

It says it is always assessing how it can balance competing priorities within the health system.

However, Angela recently received some good news.

A person in the North Island has since offered to pay for Angela’s surgery which she says is “life-changing”.