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Minister Must Make Cancer Records Consistent

20 August 2002

Minister Must Make Cancer Records Consistent

Health Minister Annette King has exacerbated the problem of long cancer treatment waiting times in Waikato by ignoring Opposition calls for consistency in the recording of radiation treatment statistics, National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott said today.

"Published waiting times have shown 70-80 percent of cancer patients in the Waikato starting treatment on time, creating an illusion that all is well when it isn't. It is only because specialists are speaking out that the true story is now being told," Dr Scott said.

National asked the Minister in June to explain why Waikato cancer centre patients wait longer for first specialist assessment than other patients around the country.

"The Minister's answer pointed out the Ministry of Health's qualifying note on the statistics which says the longer waits are in the best interests of patients. That comment is quite ridiculous.

"The important period of time for patients is between diagnosis and treatment and in Waikato patients are still waiting much longer than anywhere else in the country for treatment.

"There is only a short window of opportunity for radiotherapy to be effective in saving patients lives. That window is being missed.

"We now have women choosing disfiguring surgery over waiting several months for treatment because they are frightened of their condition getting worse.

"The Minister must direct that the reporting of cancer statistics is consistent across the country so that Waikato people within the region know what their risk level really is, and answers must be found to reduce that risk," Dr Scott said.


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