Christchurch woman surprised at cervical screening fee, because she’s not Māori or Pacific

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Sep 13, 2023 |

A Christchurch medical professional is surprised after being told she must now pay for her cervical screening—a service she’s received for free since her early twenties.

The woman, who Chris Lynch Media has agreed not to name, and works in advanced medical care, said she received an email from her doctor reminding her about the screening.

It said “The National Cervical Screening Programme is not fully funded.

“However, screening is free for woman and people with cervix who: are aged 30 or over and have never had a screening test or are under-screened, require follow-up testing, hold a community services card, or are Māori or Pacific.”

The woman said “my GP has always been very proactive about keeping up to date with my screening and will do this as part of my consultation.

“I’ve now been told I have to book this separately with a nurse and because I am not Maori or Pacifica, I will have to pay for this. So much for equal opportunities for all New Zealanders.”

Prior to the changes, the cost of cervical smears for women in New Zealand ranged from free to $60.

Chris Lynch Media tried to get a comment from Health New Zealand, but was then referred to Te Whatu Ora.

Eventually a spokesperson from Health New Zealand responded and said the NCSP is not fully funded which means that most women will pay a co-payment when they have their cervical screen.”

They did not respond to whether funding for some women had been ditched or diverted.

However, Gynaecologist and University of Otago women’s health senior lecturer Dr Helen Paterson told Chris Lynch Media the funding changes would mean that women who previously received the screening for free, would now pay.

“The new funding mechanism was about making heath care fairer with more unity across the motu.”

She noted that the revisions improved accessibility to screenings in remote areas and for hard-to-reach communities.

“If you look at the old system, PHOs had different criteria for who could access services.”

The new funding was about making the system more equitable, and fairer for everyone, and that might mean that people who previously had cervical screenings funded will now find that they have to pay.

Māori were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer she said.

“As we’ve move to a single health authority, it will be much better for the country, but as a result some people will probably miss out.”

Māori women are twice as likely as non-Māori women to develop and die from cervical cancer.

On Wednesday, ACT MP Karen Chhour said “Te Whatu Ora providing free cervical cancer screening for only some ethnic groups is just the latest example of the Government’s obsession with seeing everything through a divisive racial lens.”

“Taxpayers are providing $7.3 million to make the test completely free for Māori and Pasifika women – but no other ethnic group.

“New Zealanders will find it shocking that access to such an important service is being determined by something as arbitrary as who they were born to.

“This is sadly another example of what’s happening everywhere in the bureaucracy: arguing over identity rather than solving problems.

“Labour has injected divisive co-government into many policy areas, including resource management, health, education, and water infrastructure. The only way for New Zealand to move on is to bring in a Government with ACT to change direction entirely.

“ACT will tell the public service that treating people differently based on race is lazy and divisive – they must get better at targeting need equally.

“ACT believes co-government is not the answer to solving problems like poorer health outcomes faced by Māori. Instead the solutions lie in more robust, evidence-based targeting, greater devolution of public services to communities, and maintaining New Zealand’s liberal democratic system.

“ACT will address the causes of poor health outcomes by investing in education, by making it easier to build affordable housing, and by properly funding primary healthcare so that everybody, including Māori and Pacific people, can see a doctor when they are unwell and can get help to live a healthy lifestyle.

Labour never asked New Zealanders if they wanted access to public healthcare to be determined by ethnicity. ACT, on the other hand, will be direct with Kiwis – no ACT Government will use ethnicity to determine access to public healthcare.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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