Minister won’t investigate cancelled cancer procedures

Andrew Little’s lack of interest in cancer procedures cancelled over the lockdown is callous and negligent, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“In response to parliamentary questions, the Health Minister has said it is not ‘in the public interest’ to determine how many people on the Faster Cancer Treatment pathway have had their surgical procedures cancelled.

“The entire point of the Faster Cancer Treatment pathway is to urgently refer patients who are highly suspected of having cancer. They are the among the last people who can afford to have their treatments delayed or cancelled.

“We know that there are 29 patients in the Bay of Plenty DHB alone whose procedures for suspected or confirmed cancer were delayed, according to official information I’ve obtained.

“What is it about cancer that this Minister is missing?

“None of his 12 flimsy health indicators include cancer despite it being the greatest killer. He’s called the Cancer Society “off the planet”. Under his watch, Pharmac has said it is considering new cancer medicines not being made free in public hospitals for the 50 children a year that need chemotherapy. My member’s bill has huge public support to fix this problem, including support from the ACT, Māori and Green parties to go to select committee.

“The 85,000 people who have had inpatient procedures cancelled in the past year need an urgent plan to catch up on their treatment, and funding to do so.

“The Minister could begin by reallocating the $6 million cost of 20 consultants from one consulting firm to work on the health system restructuring. That alone would buy a lot of cancelled cancer CT scans and MRIs.

“Minister Little needs to get his priorities straight and give some certainty and a plan to the high-need cancer patients his system is leaving behind.”

Note: Please find attached part of an OIA response from Bay of Plenty District Health Board, showing that 29 cancer patients had procedures delayed under Levels 3 and 4 of the latest lockdown.

The Minister’s reply to written question 46543 (2021) is attached and below:

Portfolio: Health (Hon Andrew Little)
Question: How many people on the Faster Cancer Treatment pathway, if any, have had their inpatient surgical procedure cancelled, postponed or delayed from August 17 2021 to the present, listed by DHB ?
Reply: The information requested is not reported to, nor held centrally by, the Ministry of Health. I do not consider it in the public interest to divert resources to attempt to manually collect the information requested at this time.