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Arthritis Sufferers Second Class Citizens

Media Release
7 September 2004

Arthritis Sufferers Second Class Citizens

Arthritis sufferers in New Zealand are treated like second rate citizens, says New Zealand First health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“Arthritis is not recognised as a health priority even though more people suffer from arthritis than from diabetes, asthma or heart disease.

“Access to timely treatment is a major issue because New Zealand has fewer than half the number of rheumatologists necessary to provide an acceptable level of care.

“As a consequence waiting times for newly diagnosed patients to consult specialists are on average 6-12 months and for follow up treatment 12 months, which means that permanent joint damage is almost inevitable,” said Mrs Stewart.

“Arthritis patients also have to contend with differences in funding from different district health boards. The treatment available varies depending on where you live, which is inequitable to say the least.

“Arthritis should be recognised as a health priority and a national treatment plan developed to provide the proper level of care for patients.

“An increase in the number of rheumatologists would be a worthwhile first step. This is well within the Minister’s power and would show a serious commitment to improving the lot of those who suffer from this debilitating disease,” said Mrs Stewart.


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