For several years now I have advocated for a radiotherapy machine in Northland and I will continue to do so.
We know that one of the six machines in Auckland is totally consumed by the 60 Northland patients a week who use it and that our DHB pays millions of dollars a year for that service.
We are grateful for domain lodge and the services in Auckland but we have enough demand to warrant our own machine.
In this column, however, I want to address the many patients who are grappling with cancer chemotherapy in Northland.
We are very fortunate to have the marvellous Jim Carney centre to administer chemotherapy and it is the administration of cancer drugs that has occupied some of my time recently.
Here is the problem I am trying to solve. If you are one of the more than 500 people a year for whom Pharmac will not fund cancer medicines, additionally there is a sentence in the regulations that says you cannot then have that medicine administered in a DHB.
No one can recall why this is in place but it may be around concerns that people who are wealthy enough to buy their medicines are too wealthy to be in a public hospital. This all seems wrong on many levels.
People who have to pay for the cancer medicines that Pharmac won't cover are generally not wealthy and are just ordinary people with a serious diagnosis.
Furthermore, every health resource has a waiting list and so the wealthy will not wait to have their chemotherapy administered in a DHB but will go privately.
We have people on combination chemotherapy who get one medicine in their DHB and then have to go to a private facility sometimes three to four hours' drive away to get their unfunded medicine administered at a cost that can be $1000 a week.
Administration is mostly an armchair for one to four hours with a chemo nurse and some IV equipment.
Why would we have people mortgage their homes, take out loans and go to givealittle.co.nz to raise the $60,000 for cancer medicines that Pharmac will not fund and then expect them to raise the same amount to have those medicines administered in a private facility?
Surely they can at least sit in an armchair at their local DHB and have the medicine administered.
I do understand this is a wider discussion around Pharmac funding but people with cancer cannot wait for that discussion.
I have worked with the Cancer Society, Lung Foundation, Bowel Cancer NZ, oncologists and other experts to create a private member's bill that removes the offending sentence.
The "call to arms" is for people to email their MP and ask for this bill to be sent to select committee.
Since the bill has been crafted, word has spread through the radio talkback and cancer communities and people are emailing and calling my office with stories about what a difference this would make.
I think these people have already paid a high price literally, emotionally and physically and surely we can at least find them an armchair in a hospital to ease their cancer burden.
If you have a story that helps this "call to arms" then please email me: Shane.Reti@parliament.govt.nz
• Dr Shane Reti is deputy leader of the National Party and a list MP based in Whangārei.