FAITH O'Brien burst into tears this week when a surgeon told her she would have to wait two years for surgery to remove a prolapsed disc pressing on a nerve in her spine.
The 36-year-old mother of four has been in constant pain since she fell down a flight of stairs at home in June 2011, and waited 14 months to see a specialist at the Austin Hospital's spinal unit.
After a brief appointment last November when she was referred for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, Mrs O'Brien waited another 10 weeks for a follow-up appointment on Thursday.
She was told she needed surgery to remove the prolapsed disc, but could expect to wait a minimum two years for the one-hour procedure.
''I burst out crying. [The surgeon] said 'don't blame me, blame your government for funding cuts','' she said.
Mrs O'Brien is among thousands of Victorian patients set to face longer waits for elective surgery following a $107 million cut to federal funding for Victorian hospitals this financial year. The state government says it cannot make up the shortfall.
In the meantime, Mrs O'Brien is unable to sit for more than 10 minutes at a time, despite having extensive physiotherapy, and sometimes wakes up unable to move her ankles and knees. At times bed-ridden with pain, at other times she pushes through and uses a walking stick to get around.
''If it's quite bad I end up going to [hospital] and waiting in emergency for a few hours and then they end up saying there's nothing we can do.''
Mrs O'Brien said she had been unable to return to her full-time office job since injuring her back and had difficulty doing household tasks.
''I can't cook at home most days or do the washing, it's too heavy. My husband works full-time and he is helping as much as he can, and the kids help as much as kids do.
''Financially it's getting extremely hard. I've printed off half a tree to fill out the forms for the disability payment to see if we're eligible,'' she said.
Mrs O'Brien said she knew she was just one of many patients waiting for treatment in an already stretched public hospital system.
A spokesman for the Austin Hospital said she had been assessed as a category 3 non-urgent patient, who should wait no longer than a year for surgery. ''Should her condition deteriorate, she would be reassessed,'' he said.