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Resignation A Set Back For Cancer Screening

Director’s Resignation A Set Back For Cancer Screening Programmes

The departure of Dr Julia Peters as Clinical Director of the National Screening Unit responsible for the breast and cervical screening programmes represents a huge loss for the unit and for the programmes says Cancer Society spokesperson Betsy Marshall.

Dr Peters announced her resignation on 1 March which will become effective at the end of April.

“It can be seen as a loss for the women of New Zealand,” says Ms Marshall, who represented the Cancer Society at the Gisborne Inquiry and who has been involved in national screening advisory groups for over a decade.

“Dr Peters is highly skilled, dedicated, and held in extremely high regard. She has always kept the safety of women, and hence the need for high quality screening programmes, uppermost in her mind.

“She will be very hard to replace.”

Ms Marshall says the Ministry of Health must be very concerned about the future of breast and cervical screening programmes without Dr Peters, and the Cancer Society shares these concerns.

“Her departure represents a significant loss of both institutional and clinical knowledge,” she says.

The potential impact of Dr Peter’s departure was raised by Dr Euphemia McGoogan, the international expert brought to New Zealand to assess progress on implementing the Gisborne Inquiry recommendations.

In her report she said “As it stands, the full clinical responsibility [for both the cervical and breast screening programmes] is, in effect, invested in one person [Dr Peters]”. This includes providing clinical leadership to both programmes, training new staff, managing the quality management team, interfacing with professional bodies and dealing with a huge volume of clinical inquiries.

According to Dr McGoogan, “this situation presents a major risk and cannot be allowed to continue”.

“Unfortunately there is no-one within the Unit suitably qualified to step into Dr Peter’s position. One reason, as Dr McGoogan points out in her report, is that the Ministry does not ‘sanction succession planning and thus it is difficult to cultivate and retain expertise within the NSU’,” Ms Marshall observes.

Dr Peters’ role in the Cervical Screening Programme has been so significant that the Gisborne Inquiry specifically called for the preservation and encouragement of the ‘culture which was developing in the Health Funding Authority under the management of Dr Julia Peters’ when the HFA merged into the Ministry of Health just over a year ago.

Dr Peters has also had an important role in the development of the breast screening programme, responsibility for which was assumed by the HFA in late 1998.

“Within a year of taking over responsibility for the programme, the highly committed staff of the HFA, including Dr Peters, ensured that all the requirements for an effective programme were in place before the programme was launched,” Ms Marshall says.

Ms Marshall says the Cancer Society understands that Dr Peters has resigned for professional and personal reasons.


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