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tony ryall_29MAY 16: PROSTABLOG NZ:  It may take “some weeks” before NZ’s new Minister of Health, Tony Ryall (left), can respond to the question: what’s happened to prostate cancer as a key government health priority?

That’s the advice the Minister’s secretary has for Prostablog‘s query last week about the Government’s newly announced Health Targets.

“On behalf of Hon Tony Ryall, Minister of Health, thank you for your correspondence of 12 May 2009 about prostate cancer,” she emailed. 

“The Minister has asked Ministry of Health officials to advise him on the matters you have raised.  Please be aware that due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, a personal reply to your letter may take some weeks.”

Here’s what Wellington daily newspaper the Dominion Post reported on January 17, following the paper’s early January spread on prostate cancer:

Health Minister Tony Ryall said bringing down prostate cancer rates was a priority for the Government, and signalled he could consider overhauling the current guidelines.

“There is a divergence of medical opinion on screening, but from my reading of it, there is consensus that men and their GPs should be given all the information to make their own decisions.” Discussions were planned between his office, the ministry and the Cancer Standards Institute.

On May 7, Mr Ryall announced six Health Targets:

  • shorter waiting times for emergency department treatment,
  • smoking,
  • immunisation,
  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular services,
  • reduced waiting times for critical cancer treatment and elective surgery.

He said these would replace what the new National Government inherited from the outgoing Labout Government last November:

“We have inherited a system overburdened with 13 health priorities, 61 objectives, with an additional subset of 13 health objectives; a set of 10 health targets measured through 18 indicators; 25 other indicators of DHB performance; not to mention 4 hospital benchmark indicators assessed through 15 measures; and an outcomes framework with 9 outcomes, measured against 39 headline indicators.”

Prostablog has asked him – via the Minister’s Government website email connection – to explain what happened between January 17 and May 7 that caused prostate cancer to drop off the list of priorities.

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May 8: Prostablog NZ:  Prostate cancer and screening get no mention in the New Zealand government’s newly formulated special health targets.

Diabetes, immunisation, A & E waiting times, smoking, heart disease and elective surgery waiting lists dominate the new priorities announced in yesterday’s so-called Health Targets.

There is no reference to Health Minister Tony Ryall’s January 17 statement that he would be looking at the prostate cancer national screening issue.

He was quoted then by the Dominion Post as saying that bringing down prostate cancer rates was a priority for the Government, and signalled he could consider overhauling the current guidelines.

Here’s his May 7 statement:

Health Minister Tony Ryall today announced a slimmed down set of Health Targets aimed at simplifying requirements on District Health Boards and enabling DHBs to focus more tightly on front line services.

“This is part of the Government’s plan to reduce administrative monitoring and reporting requirements on DHBs by a third” says Mr Ryall.

“We’ve had far too many indicators and committees and targets for the last nine years.”

Tony Ryall says the revised Health Targets cover shorter waiting times for emergency department treatment, smoking, immunisation, diabetes and cardiovascular services, as well as reduced waiting times for critical cancer treatment and elective surgery.

“Six clearly focussed and realistic targets will make it easier for the public to measure DHB performance.” says Mr Ryall.

“The areas that are no longer part of the targets are covered in the many other priorities, objectives, indicators and performance measures.”

“We have inherited a system overburdened with 13 health priorities, 61 objectives, with an additional subset of 13 health objectives; a set of 10 health targets measured through 18 indicators; 25 other indicators of DHB performance; not to mention 4 hospital benchmark indicators assessed through 15 measures; and an outcomes framework with 9 outcomes, measured against 39 headline indicators” says Mr Ryall.

The Health Targets will be reviewed again next year.

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