Oncologist joining private programme

The Dunedin medical oncologist who was disappointed his district health board did not get approval for a controversial pilot scheme involving unfunded chemotherapy drugs has signed up to Mercy Hospital, which plans to offer them early next year.

Dr Chris Jackson said he was "first and foremost" a public sector doctor, but had agreed to work at Mercy Hospital to ensure people in Otago had access to unfunded drugs.

In August, Health Minister Tony Ryall declined the Southern District Health Board's proposal to offer unfunded chemotherapy drugs to patients who could pay.

At the time, Dr Jackson said the message to doctors was to "go private" rather than trying to improve the public sector.

Dr Jackson said the Mercy scheme should be seen as complementary to the public health service.

It was difficult to anticipate demand for Mercy's scheme, but Dr Jackson pointed out the DHB's proposed pilot had envisaged just six patients a year.

Demand for unfunded drugs depended on public funding decisions, Dr Jackson said, citing the case of breast cancer drug herceptin, demand for which softened when it became funded.

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