Pressure sends cancer patients south

South Canterbury cancer patients are being sent to Dunedin for treatment because of pressure on the Christchurch radiation service.

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates said eight South Canterbury patients had been referred to Dunedin for radiation treatment since November.

Growing demand for cancer treatment in the upper South Island, reduced Ministry of Health waiting times and more sophisticated treatments had increased pressure on the Christchurch facility.

Southern District Health Board patient services director Lexie O'Shea said the new linear accelerator installed last year at Dunedin Hospital allowed the service to absorb extra demand.

She said the Christchurch facility signalled late last year it was ''unable to meet their current demand'', and the flow of patients would continue until about 2018.

The hospital was also receiving a trickle of patients from Australia, for a rare form of eye melanoma radiation treatment, because of an equipment breakdown in Melbourne.

Since last August, three patients had been referred from Australia to Dunedin, which was one of only six centres in the world to perform the treatment.

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