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'Aspirational' cancer target a cop out

Jackie Blue MP National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

11 November 2007

'Aspirational' cancer target a cop out

The Government's new radiation treatment target of eight weeks has been described as 'aspirational ' by the country's top health official.

"Director General of Health Stephen McKernan has admitted that many cancer centres were failing the best practice four-week target for radiation treatment and he hoped that the new target would bring the sector forward together," says National's Associate Health spokeswoman Jackie Blue.

"Why is the Ministry having to set targets it knows can never be met? Why is the Ministry feeding false hope instead of confronting the realities of a serious situation?"

Mr McKernan made his comments before Parliament's Health Select Committee.

"Cancer specialists around the country at the time slammed this new target as 'shifting the goal posts' and were angry that they had not been consulted," says Dr Blue.

"The new target might make those cancer centres which are failing the four-week target feel better, but it will be cold comfort to patients who've been waiting more than three months for treatment. They've fallen into the gaping chasm that exists between 'aspiration' and reality."

Dr Blue also questions the Health Ministry directive that patients waiting longer than six weeks should expect to be offered treatment at another cancer centre in New Zealand.

"This was most definitely not the case at MidCentral where some patients have recently been waiting more than three months for treatment. A spokesman has been quoted as saying there were no plans to send patients to Australia or offer treatment elsewhere in New Zealand.

"In response, all Mr McKernan could say was that they were monitoring the situation.

"An image of a wet bus ticket comes to mind," says Dr Blue.

ENDS

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