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Minister ignored breast screening advice

Dr Jackie Blue
National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

7 September 2006

Women suffer because Minister ignored breast screening advice

Most women aged between 45 and 49 have been let down by Breastscreen Aotearoa's failure to screen them for breast cancer, as promised, says National's Associate Health spokeswoman Dr Jackie Blue.

"These women were given the expectation that from July 2004 they would be expediently screened and treated for breast cancer, which would give them the best chance of survival," says Dr Blue, a former breast physician.

"More than two years later only one in five in this group are being screened - a truly appalling result.

"Experts warned previous Health Minister Annette King that the age extension to include this group would be doomed because the struggling workforce would not be able to cope.

"But she ignored the advice and didn't address the serious workforce shortages, and the whole programme has suffered as a result. Women have been bitterly disappointed.

"Prior to the age extension the participation rate for all women screened was a creditable 64%, close to the international target of 70%. Now it has dropped to just 45%.

"It has been the younger women who have taken the hit for Labour's failure to act.

"The participation rate for women aged 45 to 49 years is just 19%, in stark contrast to the 50 to 64 and 65 to 69 age groups, which have participation rates of around 55%.

"When challenged in Parliament today, Pete Hodgson was unable to provide any solutions to the workforce crisis. No doubt we can expect more reports and more committees, but little action," says Dr Blue.

ENDS

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