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Kiwi Cancer Patients Short-Changed

Media Release

20 July 2006

Kiwi Cancer Patients Short-Changed

Kiwi cancer patients have to fight not only their illness but an unwieldy and fragmented health system says New Zealand First’s health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning has been available in Australia since 1992. PET scans can find cancerous tumours and identify if they are dead or alive, indicating whether surgery, radiation or chemotherapy will be the most effective form of treatment. They can save lives and refine treatment options.

“Australia, with a population of 20 million, has 12 PET scanners. New Zealand, with 4 million, has no publicly funded scanners. Kiwi patients have to travel to Australia, at their own expense or, if they are lucky, at public expense. Last year 43 patients paid their own way to Australia and 53 were funded by their district health boards.

“Establishing PET scanning in this country could cost up to $20 million but it has been estimated by one eminent surgeon that savings on lung cancer operations alone could be up to $600,000 a year, said Mrs Stewart.

“Cancer currently causes 29% of deaths in this country with a predicted increase of 47% from 1996 to 2011. Research into equipment which could save lives and expedite treatment should be a priority for the Ministry of Health. The Minister could even make an executive decision and buy a one-off piece of equipment without the usual bureaucratic dithering. If there is no provision for this to happen then there should be.

“However as the attached questions demonstrate that is not likely. The health bureaucracy has swung into action. Committees have been formed. Time will be wasted. People will die. Cancer patients deserve better treatment than this and the Minister has a moral obligation to see that they get it. The sooner he realises this the better,” said Mrs Stewart.


2703 (2006). Barbara Stewart to the Minister of Health (24 March 2006): When will his Ministry finish its investigation into the introduction of PET scanning?
Hon Pete Hodgson (Minister of Health) replied: The role of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning has been referred by the Ministry of Health to the joint district health board/Ministry of Health sponsored National Service and Technology Review Subcommittee (NSTR). NSTR will decide how PET scanning fits with its work programme in April 2006. If PET scanning is included in this year's NSTR work programme, detailed advice on PET is scheduled to be provided by November 2006.

4436 (2006). Barbara Stewart to the Minister of Health (28 April 2006):
Further to his answer to question 2703 (2006) what decision has been reached by the National Service and Technology Review Subcommittee regarding Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning?
Hon Pete Hodgson (Minister of Health) replied: The National Service and Technology Review Subcommittee meeting has been deferred while membership is confirmed. Work is continuing on the development of the Proposal for Change for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning.

4964 (2006). Barbara Stewart to the Minister of Health (9 May 2006):
What is the role of the National Service and Technology Review Subcommittee; how many members does it have and how often does it meet?
Hon Pete Hodgson (Minister of Health) replied: The National Service and Technology Review Subcommittee (NSTR) is responsible for horizon scanning, co-ordinating business case development, and analysing and evaluating proposals for change and business cases.

The NSTR has 12 members. It is governed by the Deputy Director-General and Chief Executive Officer (DDG-CEO) Group. The DDG-CEO Group comprises five district health board CEOs and five Ministry of Health DDGs. The frequency of NSTR meetings is to be confirmed.
The NSTR makes recommendations to the DDG-CEO Group on national service matters and new health interventions that have a national impact. A more detailed description of NSTR's role is provided in the Service Planning and New Health Intervention Assessment: Framework for collaborative decision-making publication (available on the Ministry of Health's website).

5928 (2006). Barbara Stewart to the Minister of Health (23 May 2006):
What research has been carried out by his Ministry over the past 10 years into the possible purchase of Positron Emission Tomagraphy (PET) scanning equipment?
Hon Pete Hodgson (Minister of Health) replied: The Ministry is currently carrying out research around the purchase of Positron Emission Tomography scanning equipment through the service planning and new health intervention assessment: framework for collaborative decision-making (SPNIA) process. The Ministry has not previously researched the purchasing of this equipment.

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