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Latest Radiation Oncology Treatment Waiting Times

The percentage of patients waiting four to six weeks for cancer treatment has fallen according to Ministry of Health figures released today.

Ministry of Health figures show all waiting lists fell during June and the percentage of patients waiting for treatment were less compared to the month before.

However, the Ministry expects the pressure on cancer treatment waiting lists will continue for several more months until extra staff from a coordinated recruitment drive are in place to help reduce the length of time patients wait for radiation therapy. Waiting lists may continue to fluctuate.

Ministry Chief Medical Advisor Dr Colin Feek said there had been an increased demand for services linked to a worldwide shortage of experienced staff and the situation remains similar to that seen in previous months.

"The biggest problem is that New Zealand seems unable to market itself as a destination where health professionals choose to settle.

"But the important message for potential overseas staff is that New Zealand has a lower cost of living when compared to other countries".

Dr Feek said figures to the end of June showed 59.5 percent of patients needing radiation therapy started their treatment on time (within four weeks of the decision to treat) up from 52 percent the previous month.

"Patients considered to have priority needs have had their waiting times reduced however we remain concerned that some people with routine needs are still facing delays. There are only long term answers to this situation and the we predict waiting times will start improving steadily in a few months time".

The Ministry of Health and district health boards have invested considerable time and effort into tackling this problem. Initiatives include:

increased funding for radiation therapy treatments by 14 percent to $31.9 million last year - compared with 27.1 million the previous year. A further $1.4 million is being spent this financial year. An additional linear accelerator in Auckland is expected to be up and running in October and another older machine is due to be replaced early next year. cooperation between cancer centres and ongoing recruitment efforts to increase national staff numbers. class sizes for radiation therapists have been increased by 53 percent this year from 17 in 1999/2000 to 28 in 2000/2001

"These activities demonstrate our ongoing determination to improve access to radiation therapy services" Dr Feek said.

Oncology megavoltage treatment waiting time returns as at 30 June 2001

As at 30 June, 227 patients on the radiation treatment waiting list had waited longer than 4 weeks for treatment after the decision to treat. Of those waiting longer then 4 weeks, 143(63 percent) had waited longer than 6 weeks.

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