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Ministry of Health says concern for Otago women pa

THE Ministry of Health, alerted to concerns about the breast screening programme at Healthcare Otago late last week, says it is essential to allow Healthcare Otago to complete its investigation and follow-up with local women.

Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi said she believed the action being taken by Healthcare Otago following the discovery of clerical errors in recording women's breast screening results was appropriate.

"They have carried out a preliminary review to ascertain the extent of the problem and are now involved in a fuller investigation and follow-up which involves contacting all women who may have been affected.

"I believe that this is an entirely appropriate response which puts the interests of the women first.

"I have also discussed the issue with the Health Funding Authority, which has responsibility for the national breast-screening programme, and at this stage I am confident that the work they are doing with Healthcare Otago will further safeguard the interests of local women.

"I have asked for daily updates and will continue to monitor the response very closely.

"Obviously we are concerned. I'm very aware of how frightening it must be for any woman to be unsure of the results of a mammogram. My thoughts go out to any and all of the women in the area caught up in this."

Dr Poutasi said any woman with concerns should contact the 0800 number set up by Otago Healthcare.

Dr Poutasi stressed that the problems had been identified only in the Otago region and urged women in other parts of the country to continue to participate in the national breast screening programme which is free to women aged 50-64 years inclusive.

"While a screening programme by definition doesn't diagnose all cancers it does pick up more than would otherwise be diagnosed. Hence it offers women a better chance of early detection and intervention, and saves lives."

ends

For more information contact: Frances Ross Chief media advisor Tel: 496 2202 / 025 512 833

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