Dying man and his wife prompt Health Minister to promise better cancer care, sometime

A dying man from Southland, Blair Vining, and his wife Melissa, put Health Minister David Clark on the spot at  the ‘Cancer Care at a Crossroads Conference’ in Wellington yesterday. Clark has promised better cancer care.

Providing sufficient health care is always going to be a challenge, but regional differences can be quite unfair on some people diagnosed with cancer.

Stuff: Southland man Blair Vining calls government to account over ‘lack of cancer action plan’

Blair Vining says if it was not for his persistent wife Melissa he would probably be dead.

The Southlander said it was the stark reality of his situation and was why he was calling the New Zealand government to account over not having a cancer action in place.

Vining was last year diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given six to eight weeks to live without any treatment.

The catch though was that he was advised it would take eight weeks to get his first oncologist appointment.

That is awful.

Vining did not have eight weeks to wait.

Instead his wife Melissa searched the private sector in a desperate attempt to speed up the process.

He was able to see Dr Chris Jackson in Christchurch and get the treatment process started within three weeks.

“It took 19 phone calls and a very persistent wife. If it wasn’t for her, I would have been in the public sector and waiting for eight weeks,” Vining said.

As part of the public health sector he said he overheard doctors talking outside his room about his inoperable status and he also had an infected IV line as procedure wasn’t followed through.

He also said at one point he had a six-hour journey for urgent treatment because no-one was available at the Southern District Health Board.

One would hope that people diagnosed with terminal cancer wouldn’t effectively be condemned to die for lack of health care.

At least in this case one dying person and their wife may be able to make a difference for others – if Health Minister Clark follows through on his assurances.

Stuff:  Health Minister David Clark commits to improving cancer treatment for all Kiwis

 

Health Minister David Clark has vowed to get the ball rolling a national cancer plan to improve Kiwis’ access to fair and consistent cancer treatment, regardless of where they live.

Speaking at the ‘Cancer Care at a Crossroads Conference’ in Wellington, Clark acknowledged more needed to be done in the sector and that he, along with the Ministry of Health, would be working to establish a plan.

Clark had the hard task of following a talk by Blair Vining, a Southland father dying of bowel cancer, and his wife Melissa, who took the minister to task.

“You have failed Blair, you have failed me and my children, and you have failed many other New Zealanders by not having a cancer plan,” Melissa said to Clark and the gathered crowd of cancer experts.

It looks like he was deliberately put on the spot by conference organisers, but at least Clark was there to listen.

“I am personally concerned about the growing inequalities [to access health care] and that is the main reason I chose to get involved in politics.”

“The existing cancer arrangements have lapsed and it’s something that I’ve been aware of since I first became minister and that’s why we’re moving towards … a national system.

“We are committing to an action plan and one of the good things that I think is going to come out of this conference is the early steps of pulling that together,” Clark said.

There are positive signs that Clark understands the problem and will do something about it.

But there are also mixed messages from Clark about whether he sees it as urgent or not.

He said “The existing cancer arrangements have lapsed and it’s something that I’ve been aware of since I first became minister” but “one of the good things that I think is going to come out of this conference is the early steps of pulling that together” is worrying – after 15 months as minister and being aware of the issue he now says they are at “early steps of pulling that together”.

He said timelines were up in the air at this stage, but he was committed to seeing change as soon as possible.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer and is told he may die within two months, and is unable to see a public health specialist for two months, then timelines being ‘up in the air’ is not a very solid assurance.

Clark often comes across as an earnest do-gooder who struggles with the doing.

Health ministers have to try to manage many priorities, but providing health care for people before they die should be close to the top of the list.  I hope Clark takes urgent action over this.

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20 Comments

  1. PDB

     /  1st February 2019

    Clark is full of it – as soon as Labour got in they canned cancer treatment measurements along with other health measurements in order to become unaccountable;

    Stuff: “It also appears a new project to publicly measure elective surgery referrals and rejections has also been quietly shelved, with the Ministry of Health failing to release updated figures since the election.

    Health Minister David Clark said the targets created “perverse incentives”, particularly in relation to surgery – but the Opposition said there was no evidence to suggest that’s true.

    The National Health Targets were a set of six major indicators, which measured throughput in surgeries, cancer treatment, Emergency Department waiting times and childhood immunisations, as well as B4 School checks and help for smokers to quit.”

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  1st February 2019

      Nationals agenda is to reduce public funded health care where possible.
      Especially certain sectors of health care ,and divert more funds to private providers.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  1st February 2019

        That isn’t reducing public funded health care, just changing providers to the private sector. Who would not prefer private to public providers given the choice?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  1st February 2019

          quite a few as far as I know.

          One gent I spoke to ,told me he got sick of short term solutions at Ascot private hospital paid for by his health insurance and got admitted to Middlemore to get the job done properly.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  1st February 2019

            You are telling us he preferred to have the taxpayer fund it rather than himself. That’s a different question.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  1st February 2019

              There is a waiting list and always will be, I suspect.

              Several of us here were widowed at a youngish age. I can’t imagine not being willing to sell everything I could to pay for the treatment myself if the queue was too long as it was in this case.

            • Blazer

               /  1st February 2019

              read it again.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  1st February 2019

              Don’t have to. His health insurance obviously didn’t cover what needed to be done.

            • Blazer

               /  1st February 2019

              his insurance covered it.
              He implied the private surgeon preferred to maximise his earnings by ‘piecemeal’ solutions,instead of tackling the issue as was the case at Middlemore.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  1st February 2019

              Ridiculous.

            • Blazer

               /  1st February 2019

              not ridiculous at all.A large number of private surgeons work in the public hospitals.
              The standard in the public hospitals is as good,AND TO ALL INTENTS…MORE EFFICIENT.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  1st February 2019

              You will certainly believe anything, B.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  1st February 2019

              Blazer, I took it to mean that rather than finding a long term solution, they kept fobbing him off with temporary cures….like plastering up a leg that keeps breaking rather than finding out why and curing it.

        • Gerrit

           /  1st February 2019

          Private health insurance providers are great when an employer (or ones business) can subsidise the cost of private health care for you when under 65..

          Get to 65, leave the workforce and see your premiums not just sky rocket but get to eye watering dizzyness with reduced benefits.

          About $850 per month for two over 65’s. No wonder only 22% of over 65’s have health insurance.

          We cancelled our plans and religiously put the premium amount into a separate bank account. Very tidy sum that pays for elective surgery as required.

          Public for the rest. Have a four year wait for carpal tunnel surgery so will dig into the fund to go private.

          Note that the private health providers like Southern Cross have affiliated providers who you must go to. You have no show of getting the best surgeon through Southern Cross if he is not affiliated with them.

          Private health care provider are looking at charging me $4000+ for a 20 minute carpal tunnel operation. I can see a time in the future when a hospital in Fiji will charge me less than that for a holiday and an operation.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  1st February 2019

            Never insure anything you can afford to cover yourself. You are just paying overhead, commissions and crooks you don’t need to.

            Reply
          • Duker

             /  1st February 2019

            Dont forget with NZ health cover you arent getting cover for accidents or acute care like you would in US.

            Southern Cross has its own teams of nurses and admin who ‘work the system’ so that members who want pre approval for going private can be in many cases be pushed back into the public system

            Reply
    • Duker

       /  1st February 2019

      “the targets created “perverse incentives”, particularly in relation to surgery – but the Opposition said there was no evidence to suggest that’s true.”

      Evidence – Specialist told us that existing patients were put into a holding pattern as the ‘targets’ were for new patients getting their first appointemnt.

      This morning the Herald revealed 13 surgeons in Waikato Hospital’s orthopaedic department told senior managers a decision to stop follow-up appointments for post-operative patients was “immoral, unethical and dangerous.
      The order, which DHB bosses claim was a miscommunication despite a leaked email showing a clear directive, would free up the surgeons to conduct First Specialist Appointments (FSA) which would prevent Waikato from breaching health targets.

      The Government-imposed FSA target[this was Nov 2016] stipulates that patients must be seen by a hospital specialist within four months of being referred by their GP.

      13 surgeons is clear evidence.

      Reply

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