For the last seven months thousands of Kiwi cancer sufferers have begged the Government to take urgent action to better the public health system.

Today, the Herald can reveal a major public announcement is just two days away.

Health Minister David Clark is expected to announce the Government's 10-year plan to tackle cancer this Sunday in Auckland.

Health Minister David Clark. Photo / File
Health Minister David Clark. Photo / File

It comes after a major Herald investigation uncovered hundreds of Kiwi cancer sufferers have received large taxpayer-funded payouts after being let down by the public health system - with more than $15 million paid in the past five years - after they were misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed quickly enough.

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That was followed by a powerful public movement after dying dad Blair Vining launched a petition - that gained 140,000 signatures - calling for a national cancer agency outside of political interference.

Speaking to the Herald today, Vining's wife Melissa said she was just so glad her "incredibly determined" husband was still alive to see change.

"He's really unwell. His health has deteriorated significantly. His cancer has spread into his hips and spine and is causing him a lot of pain but this is definitely something to look forward to," Melissa Vining said, holding back tears.

Clark told the Herald today that while he couldn't give details ahead of Sunday's announcement he could assure Blair, Melissa and all New Zealanders that it will cover the full range of cancer control from prevention and screening through to medicines, consistency of care and strong central leadership.

"I've met with Blair and Melissa Vining and I thank them for their advocacy on this issue," Clark said.

Melissa said they would be watching with itchy feet from their Winton living room.

"Blair's excited. I'm more emotional about it," she said.

"We are eagerly awaiting the release to see if we can tick the last thing off my bucket list," Vining said in a Facebook post.

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Their daughters Lilly, who wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and received a hand-written letter back, and Della-May, who has backed her dad every step of the way, were just as eager for Sunday.

Blair and Melissa Vining with their two girls Lilly (12) and Della-May (17). They have had their world tipped upside down after Blair's deadly cancer diagnosis. Photo / Supplied
Blair and Melissa Vining with their two girls Lilly (12) and Della-May (17). They have had their world tipped upside down after Blair's deadly cancer diagnosis. Photo / Supplied

Changes they hoped to see addressed include:

• A national cancer agency led by cancer experts.

• National targets to hold district health boards to account.

• Bowel screening to be available through every DHB, and for the funded age bracket to be extended to under 50-year-olds.

• A plan to extent cancer specialist workforce.

Chris Jackson, Cancer Society of New Zealand medical director, told the Herald he was expecting it to be the biggest change for cancer care in 15 years.

"We have had a lot of input into the plan and I feel confident the minister has listened," Jackson said.

He said for the last two years the society had been working on a campaign for strong central leadership in cancer, a new plan, and an end to post-code cancer care.

"It has involved an awful lot of politician-stalking."

Blair's story:

Vining and his family are the backbone of the petition calling on the Government to fund a national cancer agency.

"Every New Zealander should have the right to the best treatment regardless of money, age, ethnicity, and location," Melissa Vining says.

The family's pleas for change came after Vining was told he had to wait eight weeks for an "urgent appointment" with an oncologist after being diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.

The 38-year-old Southland father says he's been let down by the public health system that fails to hold District Health Boards to account for life-threatening wait times.

Refusing to wait until his "due date", Vining managed to book an appointment within a week with Dunedin oncologist Chris Jackson - who is also the medical director of Cancer Society New Zealand.

2 years ago we began working on a campaign for strong central leadership in cancer, a new cancer plan, and an end to...

Posted by Christopher Jackson on Thursday, 29 August 2019

Originally told it was a matter of weeks before he would be dead, Vining has had an extra five months - and he's still fighting today.

But it comes at a cost. He pays about $35,000 a month for medication that is not funded and not covered by their private health insurance. He also pays for travel and accommodation to get treatment three hours' drive away because it is not available in their home town of Winton, in Southland.

Seven months ago, the couple told their story in front of hundreds of cancer experts from around the world at a conference held in Wellington.

Among the crowd was Health Minister David Clark. Melissa Vining looked directly in his eyes and told him he had failed her, her husband and their two daughters.

In response, Clark announced his ministry would get work right away to come up with a plan to tackle New Zealand's biggest killer.

Advocates say people are dying because of the ongoing "unacceptable" delay.

Cancer kills around 9500 Kiwis a year. Failures in treatment have been laid bare in a series of Herald investigations.

Excited to be heading home for a few days, with a stop off for the best frosty boy ever from Mataura Four Square 💪💪

Posted by Blair Vining’s Epic Journey on Monday, 26 August 2019

New Zealand's history of tackling cancer:

1999 -Labour Government announces plans are under way for first ever cancer plan.

2003 - Cancer control strategy released included cancer prevention, screening, early detection, treatment, rehabilitation, support and palliative care.

2005 - Labour Government establishes national agency known as Cancer Control Council, formally Cancer Control of New Zealand, to provide independent advice free from political interference.

2015 - National Party-led Government disestablishes Cancer Control Council.

July 2017 - Pre-election, Labour promises $10 million to establish the agency and a further $10m to get work under way.

Jan 31, 2019 - Melissa Vining blasts Health Minister David Clark for not following through on promise to establish cancer agency.

- Clark announces the Government's plan to tackle cancer is under way and he expected to see a draft by the end of June.

May 6, 2019 - Herald starts investigation revealing hundreds of Kiwi cancer sufferers have received large taxpayer-funded payouts after being let down by the public health system.

June 28, 2019 - Blair Vining launches petition calling for a national cancer agency to hold District Health Boards to account and improve the health care system.

June 29, 2019 - Herald reveals Prime Minister's letter to Blair's daughter Lilly Vining suggesting agency is not part of the Government's plan.

- More than 650 New Zealanders gathered in Invercargill to join Vining as he handed over a petition to National's Michael Woodhouse.

July 7, 2019 - Vining's petition closes to the public.