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DHBs coordinate efforts for cancer patients

Media Release

9 November 2001

District Health Boards coordinate efforts for cancer patients

On behalf of New Zealand cancer centres Auckland District Health Board will co-ordinate efforts to select patients, make referrals, and arrange travel and accommodation for cancer patients who choose to have their treatment in Australia, following the announcement of extra Government funding.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Andrew Holmes said the objective is to relieve pressure on the New Zealand system in order that all patients might have timely access to treatment.

"The District Health Boards have been asked to work with material provided by the Ministry of Health and assess the clinical appropriateness of travel for all existing patients who have waited or are at risk of waiting, longer than the recommended clinical guidelines for treatment. "

"Patients who are eligible for treatment in Australia will be those who are medically fit, whose treatment is not urgent, and who are able to travel."

District health Boards have been asked to work together on ascertaining the capacity in Australia and Auckland District Health Board has already organised a number of contracts with Australian private centres. As a result of these arrangements the first patient is due for treatment in Australia on Monday 12 November.

Details of the duration of this arrangement will be decided on once the Ministry of Health and the participating cancer centres have a better understanding of the number of people who may take up the offer to travel to Australia.

Dr Holmes reiterated today there has been no change in the guidelines for radiation treatment waiting times.

"Clinically acceptable waiting times depend on the kind of cancer and for post lumpectomy breast cancer it is preferable that patients wait no longer than 12 weeks from the time of surgery to the time of radiation treatment."

"After lumpectomy surgery for breast cancer, the surgeon usually refers the woman for radiation treatment. The four week time frame mentioned in the Improving Non-Surgical Cancer Treatment Services in New Zealand report is the interval between the referral and the commencement of treatment."

"The clinicians who wrote the report intended the four week timeframe to be a guide to help ensure that breast cancer patients get treated within the clinically important 12-week interval between surgery and radiation treatment."

The 12-week interval has a strong evidence base and is the basis for international guidelines such as those from Canada.

"At the most recent National Cancer Treatment Working Party meeting, which included a College of Surgeons representative, there was acceptance of the 12-week minimum standard for post lumpectomy breast cancer treatment. All recognised that a shorter interval may be desirable," Dr Holmes said.

Patients currently waiting for further radiation treatment who wish to consider the option of radiation treatment in Australia should contact their cancer centre for further details.


For more information contact: Hayley Brock Media Advisor (04) 496 2115, 025 495 989 Hayley Brock Media Advisor Communications Corporate & Information Directorate Ministry of Health DDI: 04 496 2115 Fax: 04 496 2010

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