Widow calls for improved cancer service

Melissa Vining speaks to the Southern District Health Board yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Melissa Vining speaks to the Southern District Health Board yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Melissa Vining yesterday confronted the Southern District Health Board, which she feels failed her husband and people like him, and urged it to do better for cancer patients.

Southland farmer Blair Vining died last year from bowel cancer, but not before championing a 140,000-signature petition which was influential in convincing the Government to create the Cancer Control Agency.

Mr Vining was too young for his cancer to be caught by the bowel screening programme.

Initially given just three months to live, he was then told to wait eight weeks for an "urgent" appointment with an oncologist.

Ms Vining spoke, at the SDHB’s invitation, in the public forum section of its meeting.

In an emotional presentation, she said timely healthcare was a fundamental right for every human, one which the SDHB was not providing cancer patients.

Bowel cancer was curable if caught early, but southern patients endured "despicable, unacceptably long waits", she said.

"You as a board have a simple responsibility to the people of Otago and Southland to provide health services ...

"Under-resourcing and rationing adversely affects the medical professionals, as well as the patients they serve.

"These long waits and delays are not only cruel, and inhumane but they kill people."

Ms Vining has played a leading role in setting up a charity hospital in Invercargill to provide procedures such as endoscopy for people suspected of having bowel cancer.

"The community should not have to build their own hospital," Ms Vining said.

"A 40-year-old widow should not have to continually point out this hospital’s failings ...

"I ask you and the Government to provide the healthcare services we deserve."

Speaking afterwards, Ms Vining said she would continue her fight for better cancer treatment services.

"I won’t stop.

"The people of Otago and Southland deserve better.

"Some people are too sick or in too much pain to speak up, so I won’t stop."

Ms Vining was invited by board chairman Dave Cull to stay for a discussion on endoscopy services, and that item was moved up the agenda.

"I always feel like I am listened to but it is action afterward that I would like to see," Ms Vining said.

"I am hopeful. I wouldn’t have driven all the way up from Invercargill in the pouring rain otherwise."

Ms Vining was invited by Mr Cull to join the SDHB’s endoscopy user’s group, an offer she said she would consider.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter