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Health Minister Should Prioritise Cancer Treatment

1 November 2007

New Health Minister Should Prioritise Cancer Treatment

The new Health Minister will be reviewing priorities and dealing with the inequalities in cancer treatment should be at the top of his list says New Zealand First health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“In Wellington Capital and Coast DHB cannot provide treatment to children who are being flown to Auckland or Christchurch. Sick children will be separated from their families until such times as CCDHB gets its act together and either finds a way to provide treatment at Wellington Hospital or pays for families to stay together at such traumatic times.

“Palmerston North patients are being flown to Melbourne for treatment unavailable in this country. Breast and prostate cancer patients are avoiding long waits for treatment by going to Australia or to Hamilton.

“Those are this week’s reported shortfalls in the public health system for cancer patients. Pharmac usually gets a mention because of its perceived underfunding and slowness in making drugs available. Then there is the underfunded palliative care system, which has to rely on public fundraising for the care of the terminally ill.

“Not to mention the fact that New Zealanders are still being denied the benefits of PET scanning – held up mainly by a cumbersome bureaucratic approach to the purchase of new equipment.

“The Chief Executive of the Cancer Society has said that the Health Ministry’s Cancer Control Council does a very good job of monitoring what progress has occurred but what is the point of detecting cancer if we don’t have the people, equipment and medicines to treat it? Good question.

“Add today’s revelations that half of New Zealand adults are overweight and obese people are at higher risk of getting cancer and it will be obvious to the incoming Minister that immediate action in this area of the health system is vital,” said Mrs Stewart.

ENDS

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