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Ministry puts spin on cancer waiting times

Roger Sowry National Health Spokesperson

30 November 2001

Ministry puts spin on cancer waiting times

Cancer waiting times continue to increase on the eve of radiation therapists striking for better pay, National's Health spokesperson Roger Sowry said today.

"The latest monthly statistics show cancer waiting times are creeping up despite promises from Health Minister Annette King that she is addressing the situation. She continues to let waiting times exceed clinical guidelines by weeks and months.

"The Ministry of Health's comment that the situation hasn't deteriorated shows it is trying to put a positive spin on the statistics for the Minister. Dr Colin Feek has cherry-picked the best statistics he can find.

"Dunedin is the worst affected area with a significant drop in the number of patients starting treatment on time, from 42 to 25, while the percentage of patients waiting over four weeks for treatment has almost doubled.

"In Auckland the percentage of patients starting treatment on time has dropped significantly, and more patients are waiting longer than six weeks for treatment. In Wellington the percentage of patients starting treatment has taken a big drop, while the number starting treatment on time is also down.

"National supports the Government funding patients to travel to Australia for treatment. Now we are ensuring that those who have paid for treatment themselves be reimbursed.

"The Ministry of Health's proposal for stronger doses of radiation treatments to reduce the number of treatments was a drastic and unproven suggestion.

"The Minister can only reduce waiting times by putting more funding and resource into radiotherapy. Radiation therapists do not want to worsen the situation by leaving patients, but they have been forced to strike because radiation treatment is so underfunded," Mr Sowry said.


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