September 2012

Spring is in the air and it’s time to celebrate. Yes, ARCH has just passed a significant milestone. 100 patients have received surgery through our services.

What this means is that the quality of life of 100 people has been significantly improved. These are individuals were denied access to the surgery they required because of personal financial constraints and an overstretched public health system.

This past year has seen the consolidation of ARCH, and while we are still a relatively small organisation, we remain dedicated to effecting change in the lives of those in need.

Our systems are working well. We have performed just over 100 surgical procedures; 54 further consultations/operations are pending; and 22 patients have been successfully redirected to ACC or the public sector.

ARCH’s goodwill: value ratio remains at a creditable 1:5. That is, for very dollar donated or spent, at least $5.00 in value has been returned to the community.

We still regularly hear the question, ‘Is a charity hospital needed in New Zealand? Surely our public health system provides comprehensive care for those who cannot afford to go privately?’

We live in times where resources are finite and health rationing occurs. That we continue to receive referrals is testament to the need.

So who are we helping? Let me tell you about one of the 100 patients – Nerina.

I visited Nerina at her home last week. She is a delightful lady. Her positive attitude and generous spirit belie the hardships she has endured.

Twenty years ago Nerina lost her husband in a car accident. At the time she was pregnant with their first child. Suddenly she found herself rearing a child on her own. Three years on Nerina was diagnosed with leukaemia. Fortunately, treatment of this was successful and she went into remission.

Nerina eventually remarried. Then three years ago, after complaining to her GP that she was getting up several times a night to pass urine, an ultrasound scan revealed a mass in her pelvis. Nerina had ovarian cancer. She went on to have radical surgery, followed by chemotherapy. While she was receiving treatment, her husband of eight years left her.

Destitute, with not even a can opener to her name, Nerina moved from Christchurch back to Auckland to stay with her brother. To add to her list of hardships, she suffers from treatment-induced osteoporosis and is waiting to have all her teeth pulled. When Nerina’s brother gets married next year she will have to find alternative accommodation. She currently lives off an Invalid’s Benefit of $298/week.

It was not long after her most recent surgery for the cancer that Nerina noticed a large, unsightly lump bulging through the scar in her lower belly. Even when she wore trousers the mass was obvious through the fabric. She had developed a hernia – that is, part of Nerina’s bowel was protruding in a bulbous sac of skin through the weakened surgery scar in her abdominal wall. Not only was it unsightly and uncomfortable, but there was the possibility of it proving life-threatening, were it to strangulate. This was something that required surgical repair. Yet, despite the hernia being directly related to Nerina’s original surgery, she was refused a corrective operation by both ACC and the public health system. She was desperate. Fortunately her GP had heard about ARCH and referred Nerina to us. She fitted all the necessary criteria and so surgery was performed forthwith.

‘ARCH restored my faith in humanity,’ says Nerina of the experience. ‘That there were people out there who were willing to help me for nothing, is incredible. Thank you!’

As I left Nerina’s house, I was quite overcome. She was a reminder of just why ARCH was established.

Each one of our 100 patients has a story to tell; each lends a face to the very real need that still exists in our community. Let’s continue to step up and do our bit.

A big thankyou, as always, to everyone who supports us. Special thanks to Ogilvy for running a media campaign earlier in the year, and to all those at Southern Cross North Harbour Hospital, Shore Surgery and Rodney Surgical Centre who have facilitated the superb care of our patients at reduced costs.

Please see the website, www.aucklandcharityhospital.org, for a comprehensive list of all our invaluable supporters.

We continue to seek funding for both the day-to-day running of our venture and for the dedicated facility we dream of building. In the meantime, we continue doing what we know is making a difference.

Warm wishes,

Dr Fiona Sussman
Director ARCH