From Simon Bridges’ speech:
The Government claims that their investment in health this year is the biggest ever. Yet we have the biggest DHB deficits on record. There are fewer elective surgeries happening under this Government each and every week. And 38,000 more people aren’t seeing their GP because of the costs.
Yet despite claiming to be a caring and compassionate Government, they only put an extra 1 per cent into PHARMAC for life-saving drugs. That doesn’t even cover inflation.
This is a Government that has put 75 times more money into a political slush fund to help NZ First get re-elected than it has into PHARMAC.
It’s those drugs I want to talk about today, and I want to talk very personally.
You may have heard the incredible story of Tracey Elliott. Tracey is well known to some of you here today. Tracey was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in April 2014. The doctors told her she had 12 days to live. She did everything she could to fight it.
She started on Herceptin, had 60 rounds of chemotherapy and over 20 radiation treatments.
She defied the odds and won. But then it came back. She then went on a drug called Tykerb, which cost her $2300 every month she was on it.
It worked – and the cancer disappeared. But just this year, the tumours came back. This time though it was in her brain and surgery wasn’t an option. Her entire frontal lobe was a tumour.
She was told there was only one drug that would work. It’s called Kadcyla and it costs her and her family $9000 every three weeks. It’s fully funded in the UK and Australia. Over the past five years her treatment has cost her and her husband Troy over $500,000.
They now have to sell their house to be able to keep affording the drugs. That’s a decision New Zealanders shouldn’t have to make.
Tracey’s husband Troy has written to Jacinda Ardern two times about her story. Jacinda Ardern ignored every single letter.
Tracey’s story isn’t unique. All of us have stories of loved ones and friends who have been affected by cancer.
We need to do something about that. Over the last couple of hundred years many people have come to New Zealand for better opportunities and lives.
They shouldn’t have to leave again to get access to life-saving drugs. In Government, we were faced with some large challenges like the Global Financial Crisis and the Christchurch Earthquakes.
And we funded Herceptin because it was the right thing to do. But we’re now in a position where we are able to do more. It’s not up to someone else, Jacinda Ardern.
I’m sick of reading in the newspaper that people are going without life-saving drugs when I see this Government wasting billions and billions of dollars on policies that do not work and do not improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders.
It’s not right that the Government can find more than $2 billion for fees-free university but it can’t afford life-saving drugs.
It’s not right that the Government can find $3 billion for the Shane Jones slush fund but it can’t afford life-saving drugs.
And it’s not right that the Government can find more than $300 million for working groups but it can’t afford life-saving cancer drugs for deserving New Zealanders like Tracey.
New Zealanders shouldn’t have to set up Givealittle pages just to stay alive.
As Prime Minister I will not stand by and watch as people die when we have the opportunity to do more.
The next National Government will fund and dedicate an extra $200m for PHARMAC to fund cancer drugs.
We will ensure those drugs go to those who need them. We would expect the drugs PHARMAC buy from this fund to be those that demonstrate high levels of effectiveness internationally.
We don’t want just more drugs – we want drugs that will save and prolong lives.
We also want to put an end to what has become known as the ‘Cancer Postcode Lottery’.
Cancer is New Zealand’s single biggest cause of death. Too often people in regional New Zealand are disadvantaged because they don’t have access to the same services as those in our biggest cities.
It doesn’t just mean they don’t have the same ability to get treatment. It means often their diagnoses are far too late to prevent it becoming terminal.
New Zealand leads the world when it comes to treating kids with cancer. We figured out what works and we did it, and made it as effective as possible. Sadly the system hasn’t figured out how to do it for everyone.
This Government wants more Wellington bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health setting the strategy.
National wants medical experts, clinical professionals and the best in the world leading the charge towards making cancer care in New Zealand first class.
You may have heard of a man called Blair Vining. Blair has stage four terminal bowel cancer. Earlier this year he started a petition that got over 140,000 signatures. Blair’s plea is incredibly important.
He wants to stop people going through what he has gone through. As Blair’s daughter Lily said, it shouldn’t matter where you live in New Zealand or whether you’re rich or poor, anyone with cancer should be able to receive the best possible care.
National will introduce legislation in our first one hundred days to set up a National Cancer Agency to deliver better diagnoses, better access and better treatment for cancer sufferers across New Zealand.
It’s all about priorities. Labour’s priorities are getting NZ First re-elected and having lawyers and accountants have taxpayers pay for almost all their tertiary education.
National is showing what you can achieve with different priorities.