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Labour must front over South Is. cancer failings

Hon Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health Spokesman
21 July 2008

Labour must front up over South Island cancer failings

The Health Minister must explain why some South Island cancer patients are getting painkillers instead of radiotherapy, says National’s Health spokesman Tony Ryall.

"This is just like the Third World. South Island patients are not getting the care they would in any other Western country, and the Government needs to tell them why.”

Mr Ryall is commenting on a Canterbury District Health Board internal document that says since 2006 shortages of staff and equipment have meant ‘some patients will have received less effective treatment for their cancer’. It further says some patients have been treated with painkillers or surgery instead of radiotherapy. Canterbury provides services for Nelson, West Coast, and South Canterbury patients. The report reveals how South Island patients are not getting life saving radiation quick enough.

"What this means is that most South Islanders do not get the level of cancer care they should expect from a modern health system. This is yet another sign of a health system in decline. Failures are coming month after month, and Labour has no idea what to do.

"Worst of all, the bureaucrats tried to hide this information. The Canterbury report was made public only after a sole board member argued for its release, saying it contained important information on patients' access to life-saving cancer treatment.

"This is an indictment on Labour's complete lack of planning for cancer services. Their cancer control strategy is a mess. There are staffing shortages throughout the country, it takes years for DHB bureaucracies to agree on buying equipment, and research is directionless. And look at the Herceptin debacle.

"New Zealanders deserve much better than the sick health system Labour is delivering.

“The country needs a renewed focus on improving cancer services, and National will be announcing its cancer care policies shortly”.


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