Health Minister Jonathan Coleman must apologise for his part in a $2.3 billion shortfall that has contributed to delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.
“All the Minister could say in an interview this morning is that ‘funding might have helped but it wouldn’t have averted it.’ This is just a nonsense.
“Jonathan Coleman has failed to advocate for the health funding necessary to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients. Too many people are missing out on life-enhancing hip and knee surgeries. People are going blind across New Zealand waiting for eye care. We know mental health patients are missing out on support too.
“Southern DHB has yet to assess how many patients are facing life-threatening delays in cancer treatment. They say there is likely to be many more than the six people currently known to be facing life-threatening consequences as a result of delays.
“Chief medical officer Nigel Miller says that of the 100 urgent biopsies they’ve ordered, up to 25 per cent may have a very poor prognosis.
“In September 2016 Stephen Hoffman was referred to a specialist at Dunedin Hospital with suspected prostate cancer of which there is a family history. His referral was flagged as urgent to be seen within 6 weeks.
“Five and half months later, he saw a doctor at Dunedin Hospital and he was told he would have a biopsy in 3-5 weeks. However he ended up having that biopsy seven weeks later in April.
“Stephen finally had surgery to remove his prostate in July 2017 which was 10 months after the urgent referral from his GP. By this stage the tumour had spread to his rectum and was touching other surrounding organs.
“If Stephen had received surgery sooner the cancer could have been contained inside the prostate and would not have been as large or cancerous. Now he is faced with cancer spreading into the surrounding tissues and organs. Stephen now has an extremely poor prognosis because of delays in treatment.
“In its fully costed and independently audited fiscal plan, Labour has committed to investing $8 billion more into health over the next four years, including the establishment of a National Cancer Agency to ensure quality standards for cancer care across New Zealand are maintained regardless of where New Zealanders live,” says David Clark.