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Labour irresponsible over BreastScreen

Dr Jackie Blue National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

16 March 2006

Labour irresponsible over BreastScreen

A lack of forward planning in BreastScreen Aotearoa is putting women's lives at risk, says National Party Associate Health spokeswoman Dr Jackie Blue.

"It was first announced in February 2004 that the screening age would be extended from 50-64 years to 45-69 years. The Labour Government has had more than two years to get it right," says Dr Blue.

"It was obvious that increasing the age band to be screened would result in more mammograms and therefore more women being diagnosed with breast cancer.

"In Parliament yesterday, Health Minister Pete Hodgson painted a glowing picture of additional screening sites being opened up to allow for the 21% increase in women getting mammograms.

"But what he didn't say was that the additional sites mean further pressure on an already fragile and limited breast screening workforce.

"When challenged that the Government had acted irresponsibly by not ensuring there were enough people on the ground to treat the inevitable increase in women being diagnosed with breast cancer, Pete Hodgson avoided the question."

Dr Blue, a breast physician, says New Zealand's health workforce is at critically low levels, particularly in numbers of mammographers, oncologists and pathologists.

"What is the point in having a world class screening programme when we can't cope with the women who need timely treatment for their breast cancer?"

ENDS

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