13 Feb 2009

Respiratory disease claims startling, says minister

6:08 pm on 13 February 2009

Health Minister Tony Ryall says a study showing more than half of district health boards are unable to proved adequate respiratory disease treatment is startling and concerning.

The study, published on Friday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, was carried out on behalf of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand.

It found only 10 of the country's 21 district health boards comply with minimum standards of care set by the Thoracic Society

Respiratory problems are a leading cause of hospital admissions and deaths in New Zealand.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Jeff Garret, says the study also reveals that as many as 500,000 New Zealanders have no access to a respiratory specialist.

Professor Garret, who is clinical director of medicine at Middlemore Hospital, says it is deplorable in a first world country that quality of care is determined by where people live.

Mr Ryall promised to look at the situation, and says the answer lies in greater cooperation between general practitioners and hospitals.

He says he will consider the report in detail, and is keen to involve doctors and nurses in a national approach to improve services.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation says the findings enormously bolster the case for immediate, high-level action in the area.

Professor Garret is urging the Ministry of Health to make respiratory care one of its top 15 priorities.

Chief clinical advisor for the Ministry of Health, Dr Sandy Dawson, told Morning Report that respiratory disease is covered by other health targets.

He says preventing admissions for respiratory diseases is covered by a goal to reduce all avoidable hospital admissions.

He says it is difficult to recruit health professionals with the skills and experience needed to deliver top quality care for people suffering from respiratory diseases.