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Private centres needed to cut cancer waiting lists

Private cancer treatment centres needed to cut big waiting lists

Women's' lives are being put at risk while they wait months for breast cancer treatment, says National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott.

Breast cancer patients are waiting up to 14 weeks for radiation treatment after surgery, more than three times the recommended clinical guideline time.

"Patients need the opportunity to have their treatment done privately if they don't want to wait. What we need are long-term solutions to this problem, which is clearly out of control," Dr Scott said.

"It is time a mix of public-private partnerships were considered for these health services. I am advocating a system similar to Australia, which has both private and public cancer centres. In New Zealand we have just five public cancer centres.

Women needing radiation treatment are waiting 14 weeks in Canterbury, 12 weeks in the Waikato and eight weeks in Wellington because of a shortage of radiation technical staff. Between them the three centres are short 21 technicians.

"The Health Minister blames the delays on international staff shortages. Australia doesn't seem to have the same problem when New Zealand women can get treatment there.

"I have supported sending people to Australia as a short-term answer to getting people treatment. The bigger long-term problem is a public health system in decline.

"I know of patients who have paid for their mammograms and their surgery but when they needed the public system for radiation treatment it has let them down. If these patients could access private care there would be fewer people waiting on public hospital lists," Dr Scott said.

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