MP sends letter to health minister after concerns of cancer wait times

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MP for Southland Joseph Mooney as asked Minister of Health Andrew Little to provide necessary resourcing to assist the Southland District Health Board’s oncology radiation waiting lists.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney as asked Minister of Health Andrew Little to provide necessary resourcing to assist the Southland District Health Board’s oncology radiation waiting lists.

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney has written to the Minister of Health asking him to intervene after he says people on the oncology radiation waitlist for the Southern area has reached its peak.

Last week, the waiting list for oncology radiation was 157 people, more than double the Southern District Health Board’s ideal waiting list of 70, Mooney said.

“This is the largest number of people the waitlist has ever seen,’’ he said.

“Additionally, the length of time Southlanders have been waiting to receive cancer treatment has been increasing over the last year.”

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Earlier this week, the DHB said it was asking for help from other providers to manage its cancer waiting lists.

The board has issued a Request for Proposals looking for options for patients to have their first specialist assessment, planning and the subsequent radiation oncology treatment course at another provider.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said the request was part of the board’s efforts to reduce waiting times for patients and build a more resilient radiation oncology service.

Fleming said demand for cancer care in Southland and Otago exceeded the board’s capacity.

Mooney said “according to the Ministry of Health, patients referred urgently with a high suspicion of cancer should receive their first treatment within 62 days, but this has only happened for 48 per cent of patients in the past quarter.”

“The situation has got to a point where one radiation oncologist recently described it as being ‘shameful and criminal’,” he said.

“Some Southlanders are waiting months just to see a specialist, and others have reported having to wait six to eight weeks for a CT scan in Dunedin,” Mooney said

“I’ve written to Minister of Health Andrew Little asking him to examine the extraordinarily long waiting times experienced by cancer sufferers in Southland and make sure Southlanders receive the care they deserve much faster than they’re currently getting it.”

Mooney said the Minister must urgently look into the matter and provide the necessary resourcing to reduce the Southern DHB’s waiting times.

Little’s office confirmed it had received the letter and that Mooney would receive a response in due course.