Minutes from a Cancer Control Agency (CCA) meeting in March 2022 show the CCA providing advice to Te Whatu Ora and the Māori Health Authority about “the way specialist cancer treatment and support services could/should be organised and distributed in Aotearoa to achieve optimal and equitable outcomes.”

“Cancer specialists have confirmed that this has led to the waiting list for chemotherapy being broken down by ethnicity, prioritising access to treatment based on a patient’s race. These professionals just want to do the best for all their patients but find themselves tied up with ethnicity-based checklists that they’re concerned will lead patients in need missing out.

“Approximately 25,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in New Zealand, almost everyone has been affected by it at some point in their life either directly or through friends and family.

“Imagine being shuffled up and down a waiting list for something as important as chemotherapy because of who your ancestors are. It is a fundamentally un-kiwi concept, but it seems like racial discrimination has become the official policy of the New Zealand Government.

“A person who is in great clinical need, has waited a long time, lives far from major medical facilities, and is poor could be Māori, European, Pacific, Indian or Chinese, and they should all be treated equally.

“If the existing criteria of clinical need, time waited, geographical location and economic deprivation are doing their job there’s no reason to add factors of race to the mix. The only possible outcome is that a person in greater need might wait longer or die on a waiting list because they had the wrong ancestors.

“This is sadly a classic example of what’s happening everywhere in the bureaucracy: arguing over identity rather than solving problems. We need to tell the public service that treating people differently based on race is lazy and divisive – they must get better at targeting need equally.”

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