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Health Crisis in New Zealand

Health Crisis in New Zealand

I write this as I am sitting in Ward 64, Oncology Ward, at Auckland Hospital.

This is not our first stay in this ward as my wife Tracey was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer about 5 and a half years ago.

Tracey was rushed to hospital on Friday night by ambulance displaying complications with her cancer. I have nothing but praise for our ambulance service for their professionalism, compassion and understanding with both my wife and myself.

When you arrive by ambulance you automatically go into the Emergency Department, it was immediately obvious how understaffed and over worked this team was on a Friday night. Let me emphasise the staff are doing the best they can in trying circumstances.

What is evident though is how tired and run down the hospital and its staff are.

Talking to some of the senior staff in ED they said patients can sometimes wait hours until they first see a Doctor. This is a very scary prospect for many and really needs to improve.

Tracey finally got to see a Doctor and then eventually got transferred to Ward 64, but not until a bed became available after over 6 hours. This appears to be another issue, lack of bed space for critical and urgent patients.

Whilst spending the last three days here we have had the opportunity to talk to staff about some of their concerns.

The overriding feedback from them is the lack of empathy and understanding of their workload from both middle and senior management. This is a very serious concern.

To hear that senior nurses are leaving Oncology because they feel undervalued and not listened too is scary. To see so many new faces in 5 years and hear that the senior staff are leaving to go to private practices, in part, due to middle management forcing them to go on split shifts rather than allow flexibility is an example of bureaucrats not being at the coal face to hear the needs of patients and staff.

I have also heard the shocking news that Auckland Hospital will probably have to partition off the waiting area of Acute Oncology to administer IV chemotherapy and infusions as they are running out of space. Add to this doctors are over booking day treatment by 15% and hoping some patents dont turn up for treatment and we have a very scary problem on our hands with our public health system.

This is not the fault of the medical staff but it does raise massive concerns around middle and senior management as well as the lack of funding for DHBs from the Ministry of Health.

Tracey and I have been paying $9000 every three weeks for her medication, Kadcyla, we were very happy when Pharmac announced this will be funded publicly as of December 1, but whilst this is great for us, we still need so many more medicines approved for thousands of New Zealanders.

As cancer advocates we have been pushing for the government to double the Pharmac budget, we are so underfunded that we are one of the lowest rated countries in the OECD for new medicines.

What has become very apparent, in this stay at Auckland Hospital, is Pharmac is only part of the problem and we also need to fix and help our struggling district health boards too.

Troy Elliott

Troy Elliott is a cancer advocate and speaker as well as running for Auckland District Health Board for Communities and Residents (C&R)

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