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Cancer waiting times lengthened

Roger Sowry National Health Spokesperson

6 November 2001

Cancer waiting times lengthened

The Minister of Health is allowing cancer treatment waiting times to be extended way beyond the accepted maximum waiting time, against the advice of surgeons and oncologists, National's Health spokesperson Roger Sowry said today. "Annette King today couldn't answer questions from National in Parliament on why the Ministry of Health's chief medical advisor Colin Feek has extended the acceptable waiting time from four to 12 weeks. She doesn't seem to realise her chief medical advisor referred to these new guidelines in a press release.

"Dr Feek said the New Zealand guidelines for breast cancer treatment were now within 12 weeks of surgery, in contrast to his July report, 'Improving Non-Surgical Cancer Treatment Services in New Zealand', which says the 'maximum acceptable' waiting time was four weeks.

"The Head of Radiation Services at Wellington Hospital says in a letter of August 23 that waiting times had been extended to 12 weeks for less urgent cases.

"We cannot find any surgeon or radiation oncologist who agrees with these waiting times being extended. Many are strongly opposed to them.

"These waiting times were not lengthened on the basis of best practice clinical treatment, but because health managers have had to bow to political pressure.

"Annette King must tell New Zealand cancer patients why the goal posts have changed, and why the Ministry is playing with people's lives like this. In her two years as Minister, Annette King has only delivered growing numbers of people waiting for treatment and longer waiting times," Mr Sowry said.

Ends


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