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Far Fewer Cancer Patients Start Treatment

24 April 2002

The number of cancer patients starting cancer treatment in February fell dramatically according to figures released today, National Health Spokesman Roger Sowry said.

"As usual the press release accompanying the Ministry of Health's cancer waiting statistics is most interesting for what it doesn't tell the New Zealand public. They completely omit the fact that 74 fewer patients started treatment in February than in the previous month, instead promoting the best figures the Ministry can find.

"They also show that 48 percent of cancer patients are waiting longer than the four weeks specified in clinical guidelines. New Zealanders also need to know how many cancer patients are waiting to start treatment but the statistics do not show this.

"The total number starting treatment dropped from the previous month in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. The number of patients waiting longer than six weeks to start treatment in Palmerston North increased dramatically in two months from 16 to 46, which means patients will have to go to Australia for treatment.

"Waikato's statistics are misleading because they ignore the waiting time for first specialist assessment. This means Waikato patients have already waited several weeks before they are calculated to be waiting for treatment. The Waikato DHB should bring its statistic gathering into line with that of the five other cancer centres.

"Media reports show that many patients around the country are waiting in excess of 10 weeks to start treatment but the Ministry's spin doesn't reflect this at all. They only record whether patients started treatment on time or waited longer than four or six weeks, rather than the actual length of time patients have waited. "It is about time Minister of Health Annette King ensured that the Ministry of Health and district health boards showed the real length of time cancer patients are waiting. This is the 'openness and transparency' she promised the public before the last election," Mr Sowry said.


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