20 Feb 2020

Women with delayed cancer diagnoses victims of 'postcode lottery' - Cancer Society

12:12 pm on 20 February 2020

Delayed breast cancer diagnoses for 35 women shows South Aucklanders are victims of an almost third-world health system, Cancer Society chief executive Mike Kernaghan says.

Breast cancer screening at a hospital in Haute-Savoie, France.

Photo: AFP

Counties Manukau DHB said the delays last year were because wait lists were - and still are - too long.

Kernaghan said the women were affected by a "postcode lottery" that was afflicting health care in many parts of the country, with care differing depending on where people lived.

"Clearly there are 35 women who have experienced [poor] - I won't say a third world, but it almost is - service as a result of our system not coping with the volumes put in front of them," he said.

DHB chair Mark Gosche said it needed more staff and more operating space to keep up with its growing population and their complex health needs.

Health Minister David Clark however said funding was already distributed to keep up with growing DHB populations, and he expected the DHB to improve its performance on the waiting lists.

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Health Minister David Clark. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Kernaghan said the DHB should get extra help and the government needed to tailor its funding to better reflect the challenges in the different areas of the country.

The 35 women with delayed diagnoses were in a group deemed to have a "low suspicion" of cancer.

They were supposed to be seen within 30 days and no longer than six weeks, but the waiting lists are up to five months.

Other women who had been referred to a hospital specialist but were unlikely to have cancer were sent back to their GPs because they could not be seen at all.

Counties Manukau DHB clinical director of cancer services Jon Mathy said women with a high suspicion of cancer were nearly all seen on time, even if it was a struggle.

DHB chief executive Margie Apa said when they were treated for breast cancer it was to a "gold standard" in their one-stop-shop clinic, where they could be diagnosed and begin a treatment plan in the same visit.

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