Urology patient concerned by constant travel

By Anne-Marie McDonald -
1 comment
Tracey Schiebli
Tracey Schiebli

A Whanganui cancer patient has had to make five return trips to Palmerston North in a month for treatment that he said was previously available in Whanganui.

The 68-year-old man, who does not wish to be named, has prostate cancer and other health issues.

"Until recently I have been seen at the urology department of Whanganui Hospital. Recently my appointments have been in Palmerston North."

The man said the majority of urology department's patients were elderly, for whom regular travel was often difficult.

"It does not seem fair that patients, often retired, must bear the petrol costs and parking fees, simply because we live in Whanganui. The constant return trips to Palmerston North are onerous, physically and financially."

The man said his health meant that his partner had to drive him to his appointments in Palmerston North, which resulted in the loss of working hours for his partner.

The man said he had received excellent care at both hospitals, and had no complaints about the services themselves.

"But I am seriously concerned at what seems to be delocalisation by stealth of yet more services at Whanganui Hospital."

Tracey Schiebli from the Whanganui District Health Board said while Whanganui offered a urology service - including regular urology clinics staffed by specialists from Palmerston North - the more advanced urology care was only offered by MidCentral DHB.

"Many of our patients travel to Palmerston North for certain tests, outpatient appointments and complex surgery," Ms Schiebli said.

She said there had been a high demand for urology services in Whanganui, and there was a need for more resources across both DHBs.

"Our two DHBs are working together to secure additional specialists, however this is not easy to secure across New Zealand as a whole."

Ms Schiebli said the Ministry of Health had recently introduced a new target for district health boards, around timeframes for treating cancer. This target is one of six that the ministry requires all DHBs to meet.

"[This new target] means that the DHB often slots patients into the first available appointment, and sometimes this means travelling to Palmerston North," she said.

"Even with additional resource, many people will need to continue to travel for some types of treatment. We are mindful of the burden this can place on families, and are giving consideration to transport options," Ms Schiebli said.

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