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Minister should act on patient waiting time crisis

Roger Sowry National Health Spokesperson

5 April 2001

Minister should act on patient waiting time crisis

National's Health spokesman Roger Sowry has called for Health Minister Annette King to take urgent action to ensure that cancer patients are not left with days and months of uncertainty regarding their treatment.

"That 187 Auckland District Health Board patients are being left to wait up to 20 weeks for radiation treatment shows the need for Annette King to take urgent action. This is a ridiculous length of time when four weeks is the recommended clinical guideline for a maximum waiting time.

"National has warned Annette King for months about lengthening waiting times because we've seen a growing oncology treatment crisis that she's done nothing about.

"The Minister's ignored the calls for action and now its resulted in 187 patients waiting five months for treatment. How must they feel when they are diagnosed with cancer but they can't get the treatment they need for five months?

"Today the Auckland District Health Board is asking other hospitals to assist in providing radiation staff, but the Minister has left all oncology hospitals so understaffed and under-resourced they are in no position to help out.

"The District Health Board is hamstrung by a Government that's not prepared to give it any more money or resource for radiation treatment and today's cry for help isn't going to help the waiting patients and their families. "Labour's deputy leader Dr Cullen said in Parliament today that shifting radiation therapy staff to Auckland would be more successful in addressing waiting times than flying patients to other centres for treatment.

"These patients should be offered treatment in Australia, like those in the Waikato are, because there is no guarantee adequate staff numbers can be found for Auckland. It is unfair for these patients to suffer from the Minister's mismanagement.

"Patients and their families certainly don't need the added stress of having to wait so long for treatment during the difficult time of coping with cancer diagnosis.

Ends


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