Victorians grow desperate as COVID-19 causes surgery delays, lack of specialist treatment

Since a CT scan revealed large cysts on both of her kidneys, Yehia Abboud has contracted and recovered from COVID-19.

He has yet to regain his sense of taste, but the father-of-four from Dandenong in Melbourne’s east is more concerned about what the big, painful bumps he can feel under his skin might mean.

The bumps are hurting her back, but for Yehia, 64, it’s worries about her future and unanswered questions that dominate her mind every day.

A scan revealed several large cysts – several centimeters long – in September last year, and he was advised to seek urgent specialist treatment from a urologist within weeks.

But Yehia’s wife, Randa, has been unable to make an appointment for her worried husband, and she has been told that the strain COVID-19 has put on the healthcare system means the most cases more urgent take priority.

Yehia said he understood treatment could be delayed, but he wanted to know if his condition could be life-threatening.

“If a specialist sees me to tell me what happened, I can live with it,” he said.

“I know nothing.”

Yehia waited four months to see a specialist, and there are still no appointments available.(ABC News)

Some conditions shelved as Omicron surges

Victoria’s health system is facing what will likely be its most serious crisis yet, as the effects of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spread to hundreds of thousands of people.

This week, a Code Brown alert went into effect for all metropolitan hospitals and six regional hospitals, meaning staff could be recalled from furlough and redeployed to areas that need them most.

Other hospitals such as Mildura Base Public Hospital were not included in the initial announcement, but they were also later called a Code Brown alert.

Faced with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, on January 5 the Victorian government froze all but the most urgent elective surgeries.

IVF treatment was included in those changes, but after a public campaign yesterday the decision was reversed and fertility procedures were reinstated.

Premier Daniel Andrews said it was “incredibly difficult” to have to cancel health services like elective surgery.

“I am not minimizing the discomfort, challenge and pain that is involved for patients who cannot get what they need right now,” he said.

Mr Andrews said once Omicron reached its peak, additional funding would be provided to help health services “catch up”.

“If there was another way, of course we would,” he said.

While health workers across the state are desperately trying to meet what is being asked of them, there simply aren’t enough resources to get cases like Yehia’s handled quickly.

Yehia was treated by Monash Health, which is among the hospitals that declared a Code Brown.

He said he was told that only COVID-19 and cancer patients could see the specialist at this time.

“You need to check, I might have cancer [in my] kidney,” he says.

“I’m worried, it’s four months of waiting for nothing.”

A man in glasses and a gray polo shirt looks away.
Yehia says her worries about her kidney problem dominate her daily life.(ABC News)

Yehia said he was often overwhelmed by the uncertainty of his situation, but he understood the enormous strain on the entire healthcare system due to COVID-19.

“I don’t fight with anyone, I don’t complain about anyone,” he said.

“Thank you so much for all you do for us people.”

“But please, please, please give me an urgent appointment because I can’t think anymore.”

A Monash Health spokesperson said the organization was working with patients on a case-by-case basis to continue emergency care.

“We understand that this can be a difficult and uncertain time for our patients,” they said.

“We hope to resume all services as soon as possible and encourage those affected to speak with our teams if they have any questions.”

“I feel like my life is not worth saving”

Since Kerry Pearce discovered late last year that she had melanoma in need of urgent removal, her anxiety has “exploded”.

The 52-year-old Portland woman survived multiple strokes, a heart attack and cardiac arrest that limited her speech and mobility.

It took her best friend and carer Cindy noticing a strange mole on the back of Kerry’s arm – a place she can’t see – in November last year for her to be diagnosed with melanoma. weeks later.

A woman with long brown hair wearing a pink dress and a white cardigan.
Kerry says her father’s death from melanoma is adding to her stress after her surgery was postponed.(Provided)

“[The specialist] said we got it early and he didn’t think the cancer had spread so he decided not to take a lymph node but I still had to have surgery to remove a bigger piece of skin around the melanoma site,” Kerry said.

A surgery date has been set for January 25, but this week he was told the procedure would have to be delayed, potentially for another six weeks.

“My biggest worry was that my dad died of melanoma at the age of 54 and they told him his cancer hadn’t spread either,” she said.

“Melanoma can spread to other organs within weeks.

A seated woman holding a baby surrounded by three adults.
Kerry’s family members are very concerned about the delay in her treatment.(Provided)

Portland District Health was not included in the Code Brown alert, but in recent days it also announced that it would stop performing all but the most urgent surgeries, in line with health services in large parts. of State.

The organization’s acting chief executive, Kaushik Banerjea, said the decision was made due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re not mandated to call a Code Brown but in preparation for what’s to come, we wanted to be more proactive, so we started by reducing elective surgeries,” he said.

Dr Banerjea said Kerry’s operation would continue, but she would be moved to Warrnambool rather than Portland.

“This is a Category 1 priority and the patient will still be cared for, but the plastic surgeon has decided to change location,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kerry, a former nurse, said that although she was aware of the pressure medical staff were under, she was extremely worried about being overlooked.

“I haven’t had an easy life…and now I have this worry on my mind,” she said.

“I feel like my life isn’t worth saving.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.
Play the video.  Duration: 7 minutes 4 seconds

I had COVID, can I have it again?

Loading the form…

Comments are closed.