The Press

Concern wait lists will grow

- CATE BROUGHTON

Cancer patients will face delays for chemothera­py and radiation services if the Government does not commit to funding treatment of cancers detected by the national bowel screening programme, the Cancer Society says.

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman this week announced the launch of the long-awaited screening programme in Hutt and Wairarapa district health boards (DHBs) as part of a phased roll out across the country over three years.

Every year about 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer and more than 1200 die from it. ‘‘Once screening is available nationwide it’s expected that up to 700 cancers will be detected annually,’’ Coleman said.

Funding committed for the programme does not include treatment of any cancers it detects.

Concerns have been raised by Cancer Society medical director Dr Chris Jackson and Bowel Cancer New Zealand about resourcing for the programme.

The estimated annual cost has not been revealed by the Ministry of Health, despite the programme’s launch. ‘‘It is not appropriat­e for the ministry to provide this informatio­n at this time, as it is still under active considerat­ion,’’ a spokeswoma­n said.

Last year, DHBs provided their estimated costs for running the programme but the figures were redacted in documents released to Labour under the Official Informatio­n Act.

The estimated cost of the programme was also redacted in a 2016-17 business case published on the ministry’s website.

Former Minister of Health Tony Ryall said in 2010 that a national screening programme would cost about $60 million a year. In budgets 2016 and 2017, the Government confirmed it would invest $77.8m into the programme over four years. The Ministry of Health said the money was for operationa­l costs.

Jackson, who is a medical oncologist, said he was concerned about how DHBs would cope with the extra demand.

‘‘It’s part of the overall pattern of piecemeal funding . . . and the funding never covers the entire cost and DHB clinicians are just told to get on with it and do the best with what they’ve got.’’

Patients would lose out if funding was not adequate, he said.

‘‘You will see the waiting lists getting longer and time it takes to get treatment and that’s what’s happening. Waiting lists in some parts of the country are already getting very long.’’

The Government’s faster cancer health target, which sets minimum wait times for cancer patients, applied only to 15 per cent of cancer patients, Jackson said.

There was huge commitment to the bowel screening programme from doctors but many were concerned about the increased pressure on work loads.

A ministry spokesman said treating cancers detected in the screening programme would be funded ‘‘as part of the overall funding provided to DHBs annually, under the population-based funding formula’’.

 ?? PHOTO: LIZ MCDONALD/STUFF ?? A deteriorat­ing historic house on the corner of Avonside Dr and Fitzgerald Ave in central Christchur­ch.
PHOTO: LIZ MCDONALD/STUFF A deteriorat­ing historic house on the corner of Avonside Dr and Fitzgerald Ave in central Christchur­ch.

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