The Press

Labour vows to equalise cancer care

- HENRY COOKE

The Labour Party is promising to end the ‘‘postcode lottery’’ of cancer care, ensuring every New Zealander has access to the same level of treatment.

If elected, Labour would establish a National Cancer Agency tasked with ensuring those diagnosed in Northland had as good a chance of surviving as those in Wellington.

Leader Andrew Little, who beat cancer himself, said it was unfair that different parts of the country had such different levels of care.

‘‘As someone who has survived cancer, I know how this disease can devastate sufferers and their families. What really worries me is that cancer care can be a postcode lottery.

‘‘People in Auckland, for example, have a lower rate of radiation treatment than people in Wellington. People in Northland have a lower rate of radiation treatment than those in Canterbury. That’s not right; it’s not fair.’’

Little noted that Australian­s were more likely to survive cancer and hadaccess to better cancer drugs than Kiwis.

Labour’s cancer agency would cost $10 million to set up and another $10 million to get work underway immediatel­y. Year-toyear costs would vary depending on the investment that various district health boards (DHBs) might need to bring their care up to a consistent national standard.

It would bring together many government groups and networks already working on cancer care and screening under one roof.

The agency would set targets to reduce death rates and make sure that clinical trials were available to Kiwis across the country.

A recent Ministry of Health report showed that cancer care for the 22,000 Kiwis diagnosed every year was unequally distribute­d across New Zealand.

The report, which cites distance as one barrier, found people who live in Northland, South Canterbury and Nelson-Marlboroug­h were less likely to get radiation therapy than those in Wellington, Waikato and Christchur­ch.

National’s Steven Joyce said a new agency wouldn’t solve anything. ‘‘Labour’s proposal of setting up yet another agency is very underwhelm­ing. We simply don’t need more health bureaucrac­y.’’

 ??  ?? Labour’s Andrew Little, who beat cancer himself, says the party will establish a National Cancer Agency if elected.
Labour’s Andrew Little, who beat cancer himself, says the party will establish a National Cancer Agency if elected.

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