Counties Manukau Health works to close gaps in cancer treatment

Latest news 11 April 2019 | Counties Manukau Health is working to improve access to cancer treatment for Maaori and Pacific patients and people living in high areas of deprivation.

National guidelines require people with certain cancers to be treated within 62 days of referral with suspected cancer but data from 2015 showed significant differences between the number of Maaori and Pacific patients who met this guideline compared to those classified as European or other.    

There were also notable differences in treatment start times between patients living in high, versus low deprivation areas, says Cancer Psychologist at CM Health Marie Young.  

 “We know that those living in high areas of deprivation and our Maaori and Pacific patients can face additional barriers to starting timely cancer treatment. Financial challenges, family and work commitments and transport can all make it much harder to attend the many appointments needed in the work-up required before treatment can start,” says Ms Young.

“Several measures have since been implemented to improve the way some patients with cancer are able to access timely treatment.”

This includes significant work to identify where delays are occurring.  Maaori and Pacific Cancer Nurse Coordinators are now focused on identifying Maaori and Pacific patients who require additional support.  This may include addressing barriers to attending appointments such as transport, childcare problems or work commitments, addressing differences in cultural understanding of cancer and its treatment, and helping to navigate the healthcare system.

Counties Manukau Health also now has a Cancer Support team of social workers and psychologists who are able to support patients and their whaanau with complex needs.

Support includes helping people to deal with distress and connecting them with community support agencies to address more practical needs like linking with volunteer cancer drivers, liaising with WINZ when additional financial support is possible, and even organising food parcels.

An initial review since these steps were taken has shown some improvement and CM Health will continue to focus on reducing health inequities.

“We must remain vigilant about pursuing equitable access to care for all our population,” says Ms Young.


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