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Migrant Medical Screening Still Not Tough Enough

12 May 2004

Migrant Medical Screening Still Not Tough Enough

The announcement of tougher medical screening in January this year was welcome but the new programme has not gone far enough, fast enough, said New Zealand First’s health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“The news that a rare blood disease among immigrant children will cost Starship Children’s Hospital $1 million to treat this year demonstrates that as far as thorough health screening is concerned we are still fiddling while Rome burns.

“Starship usually treats one severe case of thalassaemia every two years but there have been five cases over the past year with each patient requiring regular life saving blood transfusions. The clinical director of paediatric haematology and onchology has expressed concern that our immigration policies are lax enough to allow people into the country carrying serious blood disorders.

“His concern is justified. It won’t matter how much the Government increases health funding or expects district health boards to juggle priorities if at the same time we have unscreened immigrants arriving with conditions requiring expensive health care services, said Mrs Stewart.

In January the then Minister of Immigration said that the new requirements would be phased in from March 2004 and fully implemented by the end of the year.

“I quote “The review has clearly identified the need to improve protection for the public against a highly contagious disease like TB. There were also issues related to people entering New Zealand while potentially needing treatment for such conditions as kidney failure or HIV/AIDS. The changes seek to offset these risks.”

“People entering New Zealand needing treatment for any medical condition should be identified before they arrive and the decision made then on whether to let them in. Otherwise the increasing incidence of thalassaemia might just be the tip of a very expensive iceberg, said Mrs Stewart.


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