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Outrage as transsexual seeks Govt-funded op
22 August 2005
By JAYNE HULBERT - stuff.co.nz
Taranaki transsexual Vicki Harvey, 73, has sparked political outrage in her bid for a state-funded $30,000 sex-change operation.
National's health spokesman Paul Hutchison said most New Zealanders would be appalled the Government was funding such surgery while people lined up for hip, hernia and gall bladder surgery.
"National will have to be convinced, that any gender reassignment surgery carried out under the public system on its watch is justified," Dr Hutchison said.
"We have a major problem when the taxpayer foots the bill, while other New Zealanders are forced to line up for the simple things. This person expects to have their surgery done next year. Many people further back in the elective surgery queue will be understandably angry with that," he said.
Dr Hutchison was commenting on a story in Saturday's Taranaki Daily News about Vicki's desire to have gender reassignment surgery within the next 12 months. The $30,000 surgery can be paid for under the public health system.
Health Minister Annette King is cautious about retired former soldier Vicki's chances of qualifying for the operation.
While the Government can pay for up to three sex change operations a year, Mrs King said it had not yet agreed to pay for Vicki's surgery. And, depending on the outcome of rigorous psychological testing, Vicki may not be suitable to have the surgery under the public health system.
"No such decision has been made, that the Government will pay the bill. The Government has not decided to fund this person's sex-change operation," Mrs King said yesterday.
In November, Vicki will see a plastic surgeon in Christchurch and then be assessed for her suitability for the operation by a psycho-surgical team.
"We have been able to fund a small number of operations for many years."
Mrs King said that policy had been in place for many years and Labour had not recently increased the number of taxpayer-funded sex-change operations.
However, until about 12 months ago there had been about a four-year period when the Government had not paid for any sex-change procedures, she said.
Those who had met the criteria in the past included people who had been suicidal about their gender issues, she said.
Mrs King said a specialist psychological and medical team would ultimately make the decision if an operation should go ahead.
Vicki said she was well aware of the hurdles ahead of her and always knew the operation might not be funded.
She cannot afford to pay for the sex change herself.
"I wish someone could come and live in my body and feel what it's like," she said.
New Zealand: National Party criticises sex change operation