I wrote recently that doing a victory lap for 53 Covid deaths was shallow and misplaced when so many other measures of health such as cancer management have gone backwards.
Cancer is New Zealand's leading cause of death and the Government's own Covid data shows a 35 per cent to 70 per cent reduction in endoscopic cancer diagnosis procedures early in the Alpha and Delta outbreaks.
The British Medical Association and the MacMillan Institute in the UK have all published reports showing the significant negative effects of Covid on UK cancer management.
We already know some cancer diagnostics fell away in New Zealand but what about further along the cancer journey towards actual cancer treatments under Covid?
Other authors have correctly commented on the paucity of cancer data during Covid, something the new cancer agency is working on, but what has been collected is the 62-day Faster Cancer Treatment target.
This is a target for patients with a high risk of cancer to be seen within two weeks and treatment started within two months.
To be clear, these are patients with life-threatening cancer who need treatment urgently. The National government in 2017 set the current target at 90 per cent.
The graphs below show new data released to me recently under ministerial questions for the 62-day faster Cancer Treatment target over the two years of Covid in New Zealand.
These graphs show worrying signs for cancer.
Firstly, cancer management was already failing to meet the target well before Covid arrived and indeed starting falling when Labour cam into power.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Secondly, we can see the cancer hit that the Alpha and Delta outbreaks caused. Thirdly, the cancer hit over Covid has not been even across the country. How do we explain the vast differences in cancer management at either end of the country, Northland and
Was all the Covid funding and attention on Auckland, and were Northland and Southern cancer patients simply forgotten?
We can clearly see that cancer management has taken a hit under Covid and that New Zealand's greatest killer needs urgent attention. Spending some of the $486 million for health reforms would substantially remedy our cancer statistics. What we can't spend government money on is a Covid victory parade because New Zealanders with cancer aren't in that parade just yet.
• Dr Shane Reti is a Whangārei list MP and a medical doctor.