Asbestos cancer patient seeking Government funding

By Frances Cook

The culprit was asbestos fibres in her husband's work clothes, which she had hand-washed in the sixties. Photo / 123rf
The culprit was asbestos fibres in her husband's work clothes, which she had hand-washed in the sixties. Photo / 123rf

A cancer patient is pleading with the Government to fund treatment for everyone exposed to asbestos.

When Maureen Saville first went to the doctor experiencing shortness of breath, she was given an inhaler. But that didn't work, because she was actually suffering from mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

"I would go to golf and find I could only play nine holes, because I was getting breathless."

The real culprit was asbestos fibres in her husband's work clothes, which she had hand-washed in the sixties. But because she hadn't been exposed at a paid workplace, ACC didn't cover her.

Saville put together a petition to Parliament, asking for ACC coverage for the families of workers who were exposed to asbestos.

The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has instead made a recommendation for Pharmac to fund medication for those who aren't eligible for ACC.

Saville said it's a step forward, but she also wants the medical community to take notice and consider asbestos exposure earlier.

"They're missing the point. They feel like they're doing something constructive by giving the puffer, but they're not looking further. It takes between 35 and 40 years for it to appear in a person's body. So the women are generally in their sixties when they start going to the doctor and saying they can't breathe."

The petition asks for ACC coverage for the families of workers who were exposed to asbestos. Photo / John Borren
The petition asks for ACC coverage for the families of workers who were exposed to asbestos. Photo / John Borren

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway helped organise the petition, and worked with the select committee to make the recommendation.

He said a change through Pharmac would be welcome, but ACC coverage would have been even better.

"ACC coverage comes with compensation as well. But also there would be a lot more support in terms of if Maureen had to travel to get her treatment, or if she needed additional support outside of receiving medications."

"Essentially what she was doing was her work. She was working to support her husband in his paid work."

"The majority of the select committee did not agree. Some of us were interested in recommending that the Government explore that concept a little further."

Acting ACC Minister Nathan Guy and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman are both considering the recommendation. Both offices say they are seeking advice from officials, and will report back in due course.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 22 Feb 2017 15:13:48 Processing Time: 512ms