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New Technology Delayed By Health Bureaucracy

Media Release

21 February 2008

New Technology Delayed By Health Bureaucracy

The Minister of Health says he is satisfied that the process for the acquisition of new technology by the public health system is thorough. Fortunately he does concede it could be faster, says New Zealand First health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“He could start with the approval of PET scanning – so far a story of interminable bureaucratic dithering spanning several years - reports, proposals, discussions, updates, development of a draft business case, followed by a final business case and recommendations by the Ministry of Health.

“After all this paper shuffling the District Health Board Chief Executive Officers decided that we do not need our own PET scanners but some patients should be funded to travel to Australia or to go privately.

“However PET scanning is no longer solely the gold standard for cancer patients. New definitions of what constitutes a heart attack will lead to a big increase in invasive angioplasty procedures. PET scanning is increasingly being used to determine the extent of coronary artery disease.

“But not in this country where the bureaucratic process which seems to have become more important than patient welfare will continue inching its way to a conclusion. Meanwhile some people will die unnecessarily and many more will not be treated with the speed and efficiency they deserve. The Minister, and his predecessors, seem to have lost sight of the fact that the people are more important than the process,“ said Mrs Stewart.


6. Health Services—New Technology
20 February 2008
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
6. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied with the current processes relating to the acquisition of new technology by the public health system?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : District health boards and the Ministry of Health have a joint process for assessing relative patient benefit from investment in new technologies. Proposals are considered by the National Service and Technology Review Advisory Committee. I am satisfied that the process is thorough and enables close coordination of the evidence. I expect the process can be further streamlined and I am expecting to see significant progress on that this year.
Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister assure us that delays such as Wellington Hospital’s 9-year wait for a third linear accelerator to treat cancer patients will not occur anywhere else in this country?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that once the health need for a third linear accelerator for Wellington Hospital had been demonstrated, capital approval was received within 6 months.
Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware of new research resulting in new definitions of what constitutes a heart attack, which will lead to a big increase in invasive angioplasty procedures; if so, what contingency plans does he have to ensure that the appropriate technology will be available?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Health, of course, is a dynamic field. Advances—or claims of advances—emerge all the time. District health boards need to stay abreast of the emerging evidence and assess how they can respond so that patients receive services that best serve the needs of the whole population.
Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister also aware that positron emission tomography scanning is increasingly being used to determine the extent of coronary artery disease; if so, can he advise the public of New Zealand when they will finally have access to this technology?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that district health boards agreed last year on the indications for patients requiring positron emission tomography scans. District health board chief executive officers will be considering any further evidence on positron emission tomography scanning in April this year, and will be able to review whether there is any need to change the clinical indications for positron emission tomography scanning.

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