Limitoo News

Radiation oncology dept told 'straightforward improvements' needed

Auckland Hospital emergency department.
Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Auckland Hospital's radiation oncology department was given a low D rating, but only for a short time

Radiation oncologists are specialist doctors who uses radiation therapy to treat cancer. Public cancer services nationwide lack senior oncologists, with the shortages having the worst impact in Dunedin, where a lack of senior doctors has called into question the hospital's ability to keep on training juniors.

Further north, Auckland City Hospital said its D rating lasted for less than two weeks.

"We remained accredited throughout," it said.

"As requested in the audit report, we provided confirmation on a specific point and then our grade was increased to a level C accredited training site."

A 'C' rating carries what the hospital called recommendations for "fairly straightforward improvements", which it had begun making, as well as some changes to act on new guidance.

The assessment earlier this month gave the hospital approval to increase the number of radiation oncology training places at its next intake.

The government last year announced plans to boost the number of radiation oncologist trainees nationally by five each year.

Meanwhile, a University of Otago oncology professor has warned that curable cancers which could be successfully treated if caught in time, may not be, because of delays in appointments for cancer patients.

Te Whatu Ora has corrected statements earlier made to RNZ claiming that 90 percent of Southern cancer patients were being seen within a month of diagnosis.

But a cancer advocate said some patients were getting letters advising them of waits of up to 12 weeks just to see a specialist, before any treatment plan could be made.

The University of Otago's professor Chris Jackson said most cancer specialists wanted their patients to be seen in half the time the health agency deemed acceptable.

"It's hard to overstate how stressful the time is waiting to see a specialist when you've been told that you've got incurable cancer. Other times, where cancers can be cured, the longer you wait, the lower your chance of being cured can be."

Waiting times to see a cancer specialist in the south were too long, he said.