Friday, May 28, 2010

Where to next when the resources are so stretched?

We are getting worried that the increasing incidence of blood cancers in New Zealand – specifically lymphoma - is having an impact on our health system. One such serious impact is on specialist hospital services which are currently struggling to meet the demand in the delivery of bone marrow or stem cell transplants*.

Many blood cancers and conditions can be successfully treated with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Specialist treatment of this nature is only offered at tertiary treatment centres around the country - there is only one in Auckland.

Currently, due to the increased numbers of patients requiring specialist treatment, these services are under immense pressure. The incredibly hard working and dedicated specialist team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals are stretched and extremely under-resourced. We believe this is reaching a very concerning level at Auckland Hospital in particular, with transplant services being pushed beyond the limit.

Several patients have had to relocate out of Auckland in recent weeks to undergo their transplants in another centre around New Zealand. This is despite the best efforts of the treating team, who do their utmost not to relocate people unless there is no other option. Clearly, this scenario adds a further and very unwanted dimension of stress for patients and their families.

If this issue was to occur on a larger scale then the problem will simply spill into other (already busy) haematology treatment centres around the country, eventually also pushing their services even further under pressure.

Our concerns are that if this service in Auckland comes under any further pressure then some might think to ration this service.

We will be keeping up to date with the situation in the treatment centres about how this issue is being managed, and hope that greater investment might quickly be made in solutions addressing this issue as, without fairly urgent intervention, it is not going to go away.

*A allogeneic bone marrow transplant, also known as (haematopoetic) stem cell transplant is a medical procedure transplanting bone marrow/stem cells from peripheral blood/or an umbilical cord from a donor, to a recipient. Patients with blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma as well as other non-malignant blood conditions benefit by allowing physicians the chance to aggressively treat the abnormal blood cells and replace with healthy bone marrow from a donor. Transplants may also be autologous using a patient’s own stem cells.

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