Quite extraordinary for the Minister of Health to attack the Cancer Society as being “completely off the planet” simply because they have complained that cancer treatment and waiting times is not one of the 12 health priorities Labour announced.
National made cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days as one of their health targets (which Labour abolished). This saw the percentage starting within four weeks lifting from 78% to 93%. It is now back at 85%.
The Cancer Society has commented:
“We are not ‘off the planet’, we are on the ground. Around the clock we are assisting those affected by cancer and in our work, we can clearly see that what we know of people’s experiences is not reflected in the new health system indicators. We’re worried this signals that cancer care is not considered a priority.”
“We know that the Government tracks lots of pieces of data about the performance of the public health system and cancer outcomes. But we’re concerned that a cancer treatment indicator is no longer included in the “top table” list of health system indicators, especially as the Government has said these reflect the Government’s priorities and areas where improvement is needed most. Cancer is New Zealand’s biggest killer and needs to be a priority.”
The Cancer Society exists to support all New Zealanders affected by cancer working within communities through services like supportive care nurses, transport to treatment and accommodation.
“We work tirelessly to ensure that the 71 New Zealanders who receive a diagnosis every day in Aotearoa can turn to us for support during one of the most difficult times of their lives.”
Think about what that drop from 93% to 85% means for the 71 NZers a day diagnosed with cancer. It means six fewer New Zealanders a day start cancer treatment within 62 days. Over a year that means over 2,000 more New Zealanders waiting longer than 62 days to start treatment.
The politics of this are terrible for the Government. Having the Minister of Health attack the Cancer Society reminds me of when National in the late 1990s got into a fight with Plunket. Politicians never do well against iconic NZ charities.