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20 August 2009

Health Minister Nicola Roxon is being forced to back-down over moves to cut funding for chemotherapy drugs outlined in the Rudd Government’s first Budget.

She revealed to Parliament this afternoon that she was about to postpone implementation of the Budget measure for a third time after being questioned by Shadow Minister Peter Dutton about widespread opposition to the measure.

Cancer patients and their families have been anxious for 15 months and the Minister was forced to reveal she was delaying an announcement until after Parliament this week – for her own political gain whilst patients face uncertainty.

Mr Dutton said the Government’s inability to recognise its mistake and reverse its decision was a reflection of its incompetence.

“The fact that Minister Roxon has to delay implementation of this measure for a third time shows just how ill-thought through their decision was in the first place,” Mr Dutton said.

He called on the Government to end the uncertainty and angst it had caused cancer sufferers who face huge costs for life-preserving cancer drugs if the Government proceeded with its original plan.

The funding cuts were to come into effect on July 1, but the Health Minister then postponed implementation until September 1, now it will be delayed to an as yet unspecified date.

“There’s a strong message there for this Government. From patients, to doctors, to pharmacists, to hospitals – everyone has told Minister Roxon she got it wrong.”

Mr Dutton said the Minister should listen to health professionals who have proposed alternatives to the Government.

“The Minister should listen, learn and act appropriately rather than trying to stick to her Government’s plan which would have forced cancer sufferers to pay more and made it uneconomic for some pharmacists to prepare chemotherapy drugs.”

Mr Dutton said more delay just meant more uncertainty for cancer sufferers and reflected callousness on the Government’s part.


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