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Safety questions over attempts to cut waiting time

Roger Sowry National Health Spokesperson

21 November 2001

Safety questions over Minister's attempts to cut waiting times

More concentrated radiotherapy treatment is being considered for cancer patients to cut growing patient waiting times.

National's Health spokesperson Roger Sowry revealed today that the Ministry of Health has suggested that radiation oncologists consider more concentrated radiotherapy treatment as an option to reduce the number of treatments cancer patients need to increase waiting list throughput.

Waikato District Health Board's October 2001 report confirms this issue is being discussed seriously by health boards. We have been told more concentrated treatments were discussed during conference call meetings between the MOH, administrators and radiation oncologists from the six cancer treatment centres. "There is no evidence that more concentrated radiation treatment is safe and stops the reoccurrence of cancer. In fact we have been told that some oncologists opposed the suggestion because of 'late effects' ie. the treatments could damage normal tissue and nerves and that this damage could be permanent.

"Cancer patient waiting times in New Zealand have been getting worse for some time despite Annette King's pre-election promises to reduce waiting times.

"The Ministry's proposal is a politically driven response to an extremely serious blow out in waiting times for radiation treatment. Rather than being based on what is best for patients it is driven by the Minister allowing waiting times to blow out so badly she suddenly needs to deal with it.

"This proposal is not from specialist radiation oncologists who have the clinical expertise in the area, and there are serious question marks over whether or not this is a safe practice.

"This is not a time to experiment, this is a time to find the resources for cancer treatment. That is the Minister's job.

"The Minister and her Ministry must justify why they would think of bringing in this method of cancer treatment when it is not proven to be safe or in patients' best interests," Mr Sowry said.


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