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Treatment Option Long Overdue

Treatment Option Long Overdue

ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy today welcomed Wellington Hospital's offer to send breast and prostate cancer patients to Australia for radiotherapy treatment, but said it was disgraceful that the hospital has taken so long to see the light.

"Wellington Hospital has been unable to offer cancer patients treatment within clinically acceptable guideline times for a prolonged period now. In order to ensure delivery of effective, timely treatment, the hospital should have made patients this offer much sooner," Mrs Roy said.

"While it is unfortunate that Labour cannot provide First World healthcare, patients still need access to timely treatment - even if they must travel overseas to get it.

"Such trips are often difficult, as up to seven weeks in Australia can have a huge impact on the patient's work and family obligations. That said, however, they still must have the option, and this service must be made available to them.

"Radiotherapy has a greater chance of success when patients receive it within four weeks of surgery. Wellington Hospital has been making patients wait up to 12 weeks - thus compromising the success of this treatment.

"The Health Ministry's `Radiation Treatment Booking Priorities' recommend that Category C conditions - to which breast and prostate cancers belong - have good practice treatment within two weeks, and the maximum acceptable time is within four weeks. The 12-week wait for Wellington patients is clearly unacceptable in light of these guidelines.

"Unfortunately, however, thanks to the Labour Government's philosophical objection to private healthcare, adequate treatment is often unavailable. With no guaranteed contracts, the private sector cannot outlay the considerable cost of the machinery required. This means that, not only is radiotherapy unavailable within the public sector, it is unavailable throughout New Zealand," Mrs Roy said.

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