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Cancer Boss Insults Cancer Patients and their Families


Comments attributed to Diana Safarti, New Zealand’s Interim National Director of Cancer Control in today’s ‘National Portrait’ article on Stuff, have insulted a great many whose families are living with a loved one with advanced cancer. Safarti has made it clear that funding of cancer drugs is not a priority for her. Such a position clearly neglects any treatment options for patients unlucky enough to be diagnosed with advanced cancer.

States Chair of Patient Voice Aotearoa, Malcolm Mulholland “Safarti has expressed similar views in past media interviews. It would appear her role is to be portrayed as New Zealand’s preeminent expert by which to tell patients and their whānau living with advanced cancer that the drugs they seek don’t ‘do what they say on the tin.’ This cuts to the heart of why people who signed the Blair Vining petition wanted an ‘independent cancer agency’. Safarti just parrots the same quotes as the Minister of Health and that would explain why she was selected to lead New Zealand’s cancer agency.”

Mulholland continues “Safarti clearly has a myopic focus on preventative measures when it comes to cancer care in New Zealand. While we agree that such a focus should be one of several, why does Safarti feel compelled to put the boot into those with advanced cancer by commenting ‘Nobody ever sold their house to go get a miracle prevention for cancer’? As she should know, many patients and their whānau have had to sell their homes because they can’t access drugs that are funded in other OECD countries. Safarti also comments that New Zealand has limited resources and that if we spend money on cancer drugs, we can’t spend money elsewhere. However, like the Minister, she refuses to enter into a debate about what is an appropriate level of funding for Pharmac because she knows that New Zealand only spends a third of what it should on drugs for New Zealand.”

“Perhaps the most insulting aspect of the article is that Safarti is represented as a crusader for equitable cancer outcomes for Māori and yet she fails to recognise that because Māori tend to earn less, that this impacts upon the ability of Māori whānau to self-fund life-prolonging drugs. Because of this, Māori live for a shorter period of time in comparison with non-Māori, resulting in less equitable outcomes for Māori.”

“The strongest message New Zealanders can give to Safarti and the Government is that the funding of drugs, including those for cancer, is a priority, by signing the petition to reform Pharmac and double its budget. Perhaps then we might see stronger and more independent leadership regarding cancer care in New Zealand.”


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