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Patient Access To Specialists Stifled

26 February 2001

Chatham Island cancer sufferer Peter Pirika, forced to pay $1600 for access to a specialist cancer assessment, is a victim of the Government failing to act on an urgent problem, National's Associate Health spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott said today.

Dr Scott said Mr Pirika would have died if he hadn't forked out the money for flights to Christchurch for an assessment. Once he had seen a specialist his care was excellent. He was flown to Auckland twice for assessment, then surgery.

"But none of this would have happened and his life wouldn't have been saved if he hadn't taken out the personal loan. "This man turned out to have are rare form of operable cancer and his family have said he has a 95 percent chance of recovery.

Dr Scott said Health Minister Annette King should urgently look into the case of Peter Pirika. "His plight highlights the difficulty for people in remote parts of New Zealand to get access to appropriate services.

"Mr Pirika lives in Annette King's own electorate of the Chatham Islands and in light of the Primary Health Care Strategy, which focuses on early intervention and prevention, this case needs urgent attention.

"Mr Pirika's GP requested an urgent specialist assessment but Mr Pirika was turned down for funding to attend that assessment. Patients are having to carry the heavy burden of funding their own travel as in this case and this causes huge financial and emotional stress.

"It is essential that access barriers are reduced as medicine becomes more advanced and there are fewer specialist centres in New Zealand requiring more and more people to travel," Dr Scott said.


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