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Alarm At Experiment

Green MP Sue Kedgley said she is horrified that officials are trying to fast-track a solution to the long-standing shortage of radiation therapists by experimenting on New Zealand women who are already at their most vulnerable as a result of having been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Cancer specialists acknowledge that giving concentrated courses of radiotherapy can result in a higher risk of chronic side effects such as damage to nerves and tissue which may be permanent, said Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's health spokesperson.

"I am alarmed that officials are deviating from the international standards for five week courses of radiotherapy for breast cancer patients when there are serious concerns within the profession about the safety of fast tracking cancer therapy," Ms Kedgley said.

"Opting to fast track treatment without evidence of its safety is tantamount to experimenting with women's lives," she said.

Ms Kedgley said instead of experimenting on New Zealand women, the government needed to bite the bullet and increase radiation therapists pay to internationally competitive levels.

"Instead of sending women to Australia at $15,000 a time, it would be a more cost effective and sensible solution to increase the pay of radiation therapists to make it more attractive for them to work in New Zealand."

"Ultimately, this is the only solution when we are faced with a global market which pays substantially higher salaries for radiation therapists," Ms Kedgley said. "It is time the government accepted the inevitable and acted swiftly to avert a planned strike of radiation therapists next month."

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