MidCentral Health, which is suspending chemotherapy for some cancer patients because of a specialist shortage, says it would be cruel to put patients on waiting lists with no hope they will ever be seen.
The district health board, which runs the cancer treatment service for the central North Island, is trying to fill two vacancies on its five-member medical oncology team.
The board's chief medical officer, Kenneth Clark, says MidCentral is being honest with patients about the reality of rationalised services.
It would be cruel and unethical, he says, to raise expectations of treatment that the service could not deliver on.
Dr Clark says such people will be cared for by other doctors, allowing the medical oncology team to focus on the patients most likely to benefit from chemotherapy.