Regional | Cancer

Vague 'ongoing' timeframe to resolve cancer patient issues - health director

A new report on cancer treatment in the South Island paints a bleak picture of a system failing hundreds of patients and their whānau.

And a top bureaucrat says while it can achieve 90% of it patients getting timely health care, improving the system is "ongoing".

The Health and Disability Commission started the investigation after becoming alarmed by appalling cancer treatment statistics of patients suffering harm due to long wait times.

The report assessed how the Southern District Health Board, now Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand Southern, delivered its non-surgical cancer treatment services from 2016 to 2022.

Te Waipounamu Hospital and specialist services regional director Daniel Pallister-Coward says it’s a “sober reminder” of the impacts that are already affecting cancer patients.

Although doctors and clinicians have said how bad things have become in the past, Pallister-Coward says work is still underway to cull the wait times among other issues.

“I think the valid points that our clinicians have raised have resulted in a number of changes since the report had come into place.

“I think the things that we are doing now and that we have been doing in preparation for coming together under Te Pae Ora, a legislation of changes, and bringing together in terms of the DHBs, has resulted in us responding to those concerns.”

According to Pallister-Coward, two challenges are contributing to this: workforce numbers and lack of health resources while competing with other countries for staff.

The report criticises poor clinical governance systems, inadequate quality control measures, and a poor relationship between doctors and management.

Even as the drive for recruitment continues, Pallister-Coward says when the issues can be resolved will be “ongoing”.

“We know that 90% of patients that are starting treatment are within the expected timeframe, and that’s despite some of our constraints.

“We know we can do better.”

Public Interest Journalism