Long Waiting Times Plague Cancer Patients’ Bone Marrow Transplants

Patients in New Zealand requiring bone marrow transplants are facing significant delays, with some waiting as long as four months instead of the recommended four weeks. Doctors and advocacy groups have expressed concern over the potential deadly consequences of these delays and have criticized the lack of action from the Cancer Control Agency. The overload of services has resulted in longer wait times, putting patients at risk.

One patient, identified as Mark, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2017 and received his first bone marrow transplant on schedule. However, by the end of 2020, he relapsed and was advised to undergo another transplant by July 2021. Despite being given two-week warnings, Mark experienced several delays and ultimately received his transplant in September 2022. The increased wait times have raised concerns about disease progression and potential complications.

Consultant haematologist Professor Peter Browett explained that the demand for transplants has increased due to an aging population. While the number of transplants conducted annually has doubled in the last six years, resource allocation has not kept pace. Patients with acute leukemia, in particular, are at risk as they often wait three to four months for an available slot, increasing the likelihood of disease recurrence.

The Cancer Control Agency, known as Te Aho o Te Kahu, has acknowledged the delays and is monitoring wait lists while developing business cases for additional staffing and facilities. However, Professor Browett and others are disappointed with the agency’s response, citing the lack of concrete action despite years of discussions and meetings. Prompt access to high-quality stem cell transplants is crucial for blood cancer patients, and addressing the wait times remains a priority.

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