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Opening of Metabolic Services at Starship Hospital

Hon Annette King
15 November 2001 Speech Notes

Opening of Metabolic Services at Starship Hospital

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. As the other speakers (will / have) said, today’s launch is a positive and encouraging event.

It is a positive event because it offers hope for kiwi kids and their families who are living with the reality of a metabolic disorder. The new service will do this in two ways: by providing support and guidance, and most importantly, by increasing the chances of the early diagnosis and treatment.

Early detection and treatment of metabolic disorders is as crucial, maybe even more so, than in other areas of medicine. Early detection and treatment helps to reduce the severity of the effects of some conditions such as PKU (Phenylketonuria) and hypothyroidism as it allows children who would have been permanently disabled to enjoy a healthy life and grow to reach their potential – indeed I’m left wondering if early intervention would have helped correct some of the metabolic imbalances in some of my political opponents.

In the case of PKU, early detection can help parents and the affected child learn to eat low protein foods and avoid overexposure to the chemical they are unable to metabolize.

Early detection and treatment of metabolic disorders, where possible, is therefore also crucial in maximising sufferers’ quality of life.
With the development of new techniques like tandem mass spectroscopy, we are entering a new era in detection of metabolic disorders and the Ministry of Health is watching overseas use of technology such as this with interest.

I expect to be kept up to date with advances in this area, so that we can maximise our ability to detect and treat other disorders such as those associated with fatty acid metabolism.

The diversity and relative scarcity of metabolic disorders also poses particular challenges in a small and isolated country such as New Zealand. Our small population means afflicted children can be one of a handful, or maybe the only child living with a certain condition, in the whole country. This can leave children and their families feeling very isolated. The new joint service between the National Testing Centre and Starship Hospital will help reduce that sense of isolation and provide a feeling of support and guidance.

The diversity and relative scarcity of metabolic disorders also means it is difficult for physicians to build their level of expertise and knowledge of individual conditions.

That is why I am delighted the new service has been able to bring Dr Callum Wilson back home from overseas. Such success stories are to often lost in the tirade of negative stories that seem to dominate the media at the present. We should all remember there are many successful initiatives underway across the entire public health system, many of which are providing solutions to what were previously thought to be unsolvable problems. It is also a salutary reminder that the New Zealand public health system continues to provide high quality, timely services in the vast majority of cases.

I am also encouraged about the launch of the joint service because it illustrates progress in implementing the major recommendations of the Eyes of a Child Report. This also contributes to a sense of progress, a sense of finding answers, rather than just concentrating on problems and dilemmas.

Lastly, I also support the collaborative approach between the National Testing Centre and the Starship Children’s Hospital. The Government is determined to oversee the development of a more cooperative and collaborative public health system. Ideas and talent need to be shared and poled so that everyone can work together – working apart will achieve nothing. We are only small relatively low income country and we need to make maximum use of the expertise and resources we have. Duplication and energy-wasting competition is not the answer.

I also know it is not the only initiative at this hospital that illustrates a commitment to this ideal – and in this respect I was encouraged by the professionalism and sense of public service apparent during my recent dialogue / discussion session with paediatric doctors on this site
Again thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today. I wish you all well for the future of the new service and the health of any loved ones who are living with a metabolic disorder.

ENDS

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