Dylan is the deputy editor of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Dylan Thorne: Funding should be fair NZ-wide

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Eye illustration. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
Eye illustration. PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

Seventy-year old Peter Marsh's vision has been declining since he moved to the Bay of Plenty from Auckland 18 months ago.

His loss of vision has been dramatic and only his peripheral vision now remains.
Mr Marsh's rapid loss of sight has nothing to with environmental factors, and everything to do with funding.

As reported in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend, he and his wife, Margaret, were shocked to find out he does not meet the criteria to receive publicly funded Avastin injections in Tauranga for his eye condition - although he did in Auckland.

They were told he would have to pay almost $800 per injection out of his own pocket or get private health insurance which was unaffordable for the retired couple.

Mr Marsh is not alone. Eye Specialists ophthalmologist Andrew Thompson, who wrote a report on the issue, found access to publicly funded Avastin injections varied widely between health boards across the country.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board was found to underfund Avastin treatments.
The health board says having the same prioritisations criteria used in all health boards around the country would help ensure fairness to access to Avastin.

It is hard to understand why, in a country as small as New Zealand, such significant differences in publicly funded treatments exist.

Surely, if you are assessed to meet the criteria for public funding in one region, you should still qualify if you choose to live somewhere else.

The fact that this is not the case points to a randomness that should not, in my view, exist in the health system.

It also raises the question of why individual health boards come to different conclusions about the level of funding required for certain conditions in the first place.

Shouldn't there be some uniformity in this area?

Surely you can't be less in need because you choose to live in Tauranga and not, say, Timaru?

Funding priorities should be set at a national level to avoid these inconsistencies, which can have devastating consequences for patients such as Mr Marsh.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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