PM yet to reply to letter asking for cancer care action

A heartwarming letter to the Prime Minister from a sick Southlander's daughter asking for better cancer care has not yet received a reply.

With just a week to go until it closes, Blair Vining's petition for better cancer care in New Zealand has received more than 70,500 signatures.

After being diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in October last year, Mr Vining was given eight weeks to live.

Faced with the knowledge he would have to wait six to eight weeks to begin treatment at Southland Hospital, the family decided to pay for private healthcare.

Mr Vining's 12-year-old daughter Lily wrote an open letter to Jacinda Ardern asking her to deliver on promises made before the election.

"Before you were prime minister you promised New Zealanders world-class cancer care, including a national cancer agency and $8billion into health," the letter said.

Mr Vining's wife, Melissa, said as of yesterday there had been no reply from the Prime Minister, although some MPs had shared her husband's video and message.

"We've been getting thousands of messages of support," she said.

While they had not received a reply, the Prime Minister's press secretary confirmed the letter had been received and a reply would be forthcoming.

Precious father-daughter dance captured at Blair's wedding vows renewal with his youngest Lilly,...
Precious father-daughter dance captured at Blair's wedding vows renewal with his youngest Lilly, 12. Photo: Supplied
The goal of the petition was to get 300,000 signatures - 10% of New Zealand's voting population - by next Friday, when it would be presented to MPs Michael Woodhouse and Hamish Walker at a "final farewell".

The petition was created with the official aim a "national cancer agency to address New Zealand's cancer death rates, with responsibility for oversight of prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship, which should be well-funded and free from political interference, and should benchmark outcomes and report to the public" be created.

One noticeable trend in messages they had been sent was that Mr Vining was not alone in his situation. "There's a common theme: the doctors and nurses do a fantastic job but are under-resourced," Mrs Vining said.

Health Minister David Clark said he was aware wait times for some cancer patients were unacceptably long.

"It has been clear for many years that we can and must do better for cancer sufferers," he said.

Where DHBs were falling behind with waiting times, the Ministry of Health was working with them to formulate recovery plans.

"I have instructed the ministry to prioritise its cancer work. The first task is the development of a new cancer action plan."

The focus of the plan would be to ensure consistency around national access to prevention, treatment and management services.

"The interim plan is due to come to me in coming weeks."

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