Clark defends screening delay, blames previous govt

David Clark.
David Clark
Labour has not budgeted to fully fund bowel screening, but the decision to delay it is the previous government’s fault, Health Minister David Clark says.

"We thought it was already funded, and we haven’t put funding aside for that purpose at this stage," he said yesterday.

Dr Clark has delayed implementation of screening in some areas by up to a year, largely because health boards were unable to cope with all the additional work.

The delay and lack of a firm timetable for half the country’s DHBs has been criticised by Bowel Cancer New Zealand. Allocated $39.3million over four years by the previous government, the programme was never fully funded. Boards had to meet costs of extra treatment out of existing funds. Dr Clark said DHBs’ funding  difficulties became clear when he looked into them as a new minister.

"Once you dig into it, you realise there was a bit of a smokescreen in terms of the ability to deliver on what was promised.

"I’ve had advice they were overly optimistic in their estimation of what could be done within the resourcing constraints."

Asked why screening could start in the South next year, Dr Clark said it probably reflected a high bowel cancer rate, which made the programme a top priority.

However, South Canterbury DHB, which has the country’s highest rate of bowel cancer, had no firm start date. Ten boards would start between 2019 and 2021 but individual scheduling had not been timetabled. The other 10 boards had either started, or would start in the next 18 months. Asked why some boards were able to screen when they were all under financial pressure, Dr Clark said there was a mix of factors involving IT, personnel, and facilities.

"If you don’t have the people, and you don’t have the IT system, and you don’t have the equipment in place, then that’s the reality.

"There are a lot of things in health that one discovers in the chair that have a veneer of respectability about them, but have not been adequately resourced.

"I think people would be shocked at the way in which the previous government has let the health system run down," Dr Clark said.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

Comments

That $11 bill hole just keeps getting bigger...