Nora Brown, a 79-year-old guesthouse owner from the Dungannon area, had been waiting a year for a hip operation when she was told it was likely she would have to wait a further two years.
She made the decision to pay for the operation privately, describing herself as “one of the lucky ones” because she was able to gather the money to pay for her own surgery.
Explaining her reasons for sharing her story, she said: “It’s important to highlight the people who are waiting patiently and suffering terribly.”
Mrs Brown, who has been running the Grange Lodge guesthouse with her husband between Moy and Dungannon for 30 years and who has welcomed guests including Gary Lineker and Rick Stein, continued: “I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to put together the money for a private operation, but not everyone my age is able to.”
Since having the operation four weeks ago she said she was “doing great”.
Recalling the physical and mental anguish of being on a waiting list Mrs Brown said: “Being on a waiting list impacts terribly on your well-being. I just had to get on with it as best I could and suffer the pain, but the pain drags you down. People end up being marooned in four walls. I just think it is so severe on older people.
“It is not something that is life-threatening but it threatens your whole well-being which is nearly as bad, especially when you don’t know when you are going to get your issue fixed.”
She said after being told she had been put on a waiting list, there was no communication with the hospital to advise her when her operation was likely to be.
However, a doctor later advised her the total wait could be perhaps up to three years.
She said: “I had no option other than to go and get it done privately and I resent it very much because I have worked all my life.
“I have employed a lot of people, we paid our taxes and I think it is very hard for older people to find that kind of money. It cost £10,000 – for my age group it’s hard to find that kind of money.
“I feel for the people who can’t afford to go privately.
“I feel guilty because there are so many people out there waiting for hip replacements.
“I think people like me are ending up in hospital ill because they haven’t had a hip or knee or whatever they are waiting to have done. It has a terrible knock on effect.”
Mrs Brown had contributed her story to a report on waiting lists, published by the Patient and Client Council on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it welcomed the report, and regrets the “adverse experience of patients waiting for an elective care procedure including those patients highlighted in the report”.
It said it was committed to reducing waiting times but this required “significant new investment”.