A letter sent to all district health boards in New Zealand threatened to withhold funding for women waiting for breast reconstruction if the boards did not restrict surgery waiting lists to patients who could be operated on within 6 months.

New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons president Colin Calcinai said letters were being sent to 30 Hutt Valley patients, Hamilton and Christchurch patients had already been told, and Auckland was yet to come.

According to Calcinai, the policy created a ridiculous situation in which patients who could have a reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy would get the surgery, but those whose reconstruction was delayed for postsurgical treatment would no longer be able to have the operation.

“These women are being denied what has become a basic right for such sufferers in this country,” says National Party health spokesman Tony Ryall, adding that the new policy is heartless.

Health Ministry chief medical adviser David Geddis says women can continue to get breast reconstruction surgery through the public health system “according to clinical priority”.

[www.stuff.co.nz, June 8, 2006]