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New Zealand Health Minister Rejects Supplemental Coverage for Chemotherapy

New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall declined "Bridging the Gap," the Southern District Health Board's (DHB) proposal to allow patients in Otago and Southland to receive self-funded chemotherapy treatment for drugs not currently funded by PHARMAC, the New Zealand government body responsible for managing pharmaceuticals in the public health system. The DHB argued that the proposal would improve access to self-paying patients in the region, who are currently traveling to Christchurch and farther in order to receive care. Moreover, doctors behind the proposal view allowing patients to self-pay for unfunded therapies and services as enabling extension of services available in the public hospital system, while at the same time improving the professional work environment. In its decision, the Health Ministry responded that patients can currently receive publicly funded cancer treatment in Dunedin, and will soon be able to receive self-funded chemotherapy at Dunedin's private Mercy Hospital. The Government has also expressed concerns that allowing self-funded drugs to be prescribed in public hospitals will create a two-tier system, whereby patients receive care they can afford, but not necessarily the care they need. In response to the decision, the Southern DHB reiterated that its proposal would have kept patients in the public sector and avoided duplication of services.


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