28 Jun 2019

Cancer care reform: Terminally ill father's petition crashes after immense support

6:22 pm on 28 June 2019

A Southland father's petition calling for cancer care reform has been extended after the number of people attempting to sign it online caused Parliament's website to crash.

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Blair Vining. Photo: Facebook / Screenshot

Blair Vining, a 38-year-old father of two, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer late last year and had to seek life-lengthening treatment through the private sector.

His petition calls for the establishment of a national cancer agency with oversight for care throughout the country.

Mr Vining accepted any reform would come too late for him, but he hoped to save other lives.

The petition was due to close at 5pm today, but has been extended until 7 July.

"The website crashed so we had to extend it," he said.

More than 70,000 had signed the petition online so far and paper petitions have also been pouring in from around the country.

"It's very overwhelming the support we've had in the last few days," Mr Vining said.

"Online it's just going crazy. We've got about 30,000 paper petitions that have come in so far, so we're easily over 100,000 [signatures] now."

Mr Vining said he just wanted Labour to follow through with their campaign commitments.

In 2017, the Labour Party campaigned for the creation of a national cancer agency and $20 million to get it off the ground.

"They did campaign on that right at the start," Mr Vining said.

"They haven't stuck to their proposal. And if they had, then this petition wouldn't have had to have happened. But at least we're looking all forward and hopefully we can come to some kind of arrangement to make life better for New Zealanders if they do get cancer."

Health Minister David Clark told RNZ last week he agreed "we can do better, particularly for Māori and Pacific people, which is why I've asked the Ministry of Health to work on a new cancer action plan".

"It has been clear to me for many years that we can and should do better for many patients who suffer from cancer," he said.

"The plan will improve national consistency of services, equity, and health outcomes for people with this disease through better collaboration between DHBs, their clinicians, and the wider cancer care sector.

"The Director General of Health has committed to delivering the interim cancer action plan to me by the end of this month."

Dr Clark said he would make decisions about implementation of the plan later this year.

Mr Vining wanted to trigger a citizens-initiated referendum with the petition but would need 10 percent of the electorate, or about 300,000 signatures to do so.

"Even 150,000 would be pretty cool," he said. "That in itself would be a bit of a buzz.

"It's very important to people, it touches home for a lot of people and this is what it takes to get it across the line - is a big effort."

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