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Breast physician workforce faces oblivion

Jackie Blue MP National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

12 June 2006

Breast physician workforce faces oblivion

De-registering the Australasian Society of Breast Physicians would be extremely short-sighted and a massive backwards step for New Zealand women," says National Associate Health spokeswoman Dr Jackie Blue.

The Medical Council will this week hear an appeal from the society, which it is trying to de-register, says Dr Blue, a former president of the society.

"It seems the main grounds on which they are threatening to de-register this innovative group are primarily its small size and that other doctors already provide the health service provided by breast physicians.

"New Zealand has an acknowledged shortage of breast radiologists, and breast physicians are perfectly positioned and trained to meet this need.

"The physicians have the expertise to work in breast assessment clinics, perform diagnostic biopsies, report screening mammograms, counsel, and give results.

"As a result of extending our breast screening programme to include women 45-69 years in line with the steady increase in breast cancer incidence and ageing population, BreastScreen Aotearoa faces an urgent problem in diagnosing and managing the huge increase in the number of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the next decade.

"Breast physicians already work in the Australian and United Kingdom breast screening programmes.

"Health Minister Pete Hodgson has indicated through a parliamentary written question that policy development for breast physicians working in the screening programme will occur sometime in the future, but this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

"If it is left it could be too late to save this valuable group," says Dr Blue.

"Health professionals are already leaving our shores in droves, so now is the time for more innovation in solving our workforce shortage, not less."


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