Labour says it has done its homework on its planned bowel
cancer screening programme, and rejects criticism it will not
be based on science.
The party's health spokeswoman, Annette King, contacted the
Otago Daily Times to respond to Green Party health spokesman
Kevin Hague's concerns published in the newspaper yesterday.
Mr Hague had said he was disappointed Labour promised that,
if elected, it would introduce a national screening
programme, pre-empting the final results of a four-year pilot
He warned of potential risks from the decision, which he said
was not based on scientific evidence.
''I'm disappointed that Kevin's never spoken to me about it,
because usually we're pretty much in line in terms of health
policy,'' Ms King told the ODT yesterday.
She said the party undertook detailed background work on the
policy before it was announced last month during a caucus
visit to Dunedin.
As a former health minister, she understood screening
programmes and their potential issues.
New Zealand would be following in the wake of other
countries' bowel screening programmes, so there was no need
to wait for the final results of the pilot, she said.
Ms King stressed the importance of gradually phasing in the
programme to the whole country, which would allow the
colonoscopy workforce to cope with increased demand.
Initially, the programme would be extended from Waitemata to
include Otago-Southland and Waikato.
It was hoped the programme would be available in most regions
by the end of a three-year term in office.
The Auckland Women's Health Council has also expressed
concern about the risks of the promised programme, which it
described as potentially a ''big mistake'' in a newsletter
''Any attempt to launch a national bowel screening programme
without rectifying the issues causing major concerns would
result in utter chaos, and simply confirm that those in
charge of our health system are unwilling to learn from the
lessons of the past,'' the newsletter said.
The newsletter said the Waitemata pilot was ''having
problems'' because demand for colonoscopies had greatly
increased, causing anxiety for patients waiting for the
Ms King rejected the concerns, saying the Waitemata health
board had reported no major difficulties, and the pilot was
''I think we've got to look at the lives lost. There are more
people who die of bowel cancer than breast cancer and
prostate [cancer] put together,'' Ms King said.eileen.