Children are dropping off treatment lists as hospitals focus on the Government's elective surgery targets, Labour says.
The party's health spokeswoman, Maryan Street, told Parliament today she knew about a little boy with a congenital eye problem whose surgery was cancelled so that two simple cataract operations could be carried out on the afternoon he was due to have his operation.
Health Minister Tony Ryall said he would look into the case if Ms Street gave him details.
Outside Parliament, Ms Street said clinicians and parents had told her about "some truly sad cases" of complex operations and appointments which had been cancelled.
"In one case a solo mum couldn't even get her four-year-old on a waiting list for a first specialist assessment because the district health board (DHB) has to keep waiting times low to look good for the minister of health," she said.
"This little girl has an emerging speech defect which might benefit from surgical intervention yet her mother can't get confirmation of that because the DHB has said her daughter's case isn't urgent - and therefore she will never make it on to a waiting list."
Ms Street says clinicians have told her the situation is demoralising.
"They are compelled to make decisions for the wrong reasons - health is always about competing priorities but what we are seeing here are people being asked to make decisions they feel uncomfortable about."
The Government sets targets for hospitals and 35,000 more elective operations are being carried out each year since National came to power in 2008.
Ms Street says they are focusing on simple procedures so they can meet the targets.