Public, private healthcare divide decides brothers’ fate after cancer diagnosis.

Otago Daily Times
By Fiona Ellis
29 Apr, 2023

Dunedin’s Stephen Hoffman is urging people to pick up the phone and push to receive prompt treatment so their cancer does not become terminal like his did.
Two brothers were both diagnosed with prostate cancer, but only one had to rely on public healthcare — and only one is dying. Dunedin resident Stephen Hoffman is a victim of the delays to cancer care in the Southern district, detailed in a damning Health and Disability Commission report released earlier this month covering the years 2016-22.

His brother Mike, who was swiftly treated for prostate cancer through the private system, believed Stephen would likely have fully recovered if not for New Zealand’s “third-world” public health care.

Stephen, 68, said time was the biggest factor in whether the cancer was treatable, and he wanted to prevent anyone else from ending up in his position. His key advice was to be proactive and call as often as it took to be sure treatment plans were progressing, as he had twice been lost in the system.
“That’s what they do with people; they fob them off so that people have to go private — it’s a bit of a farce,” he said.
A GP discovered his prostate issues in September 2016, but despite being classed as urgent, 10 months passed before he underwent surgery in July 2017.
His biopsy took place in April of that year, and an MRI in May found almost his entire prostate replaced with a tumour.
The cancer spread to his liver and lungs, and he now has a tumour at the base of his brain.
Going private could have cost $40,000 and was not affordable for the former truck driver.
“I couldn’t afford that, and not many people can.”
Furthermore, the point of a public healthcare system was that they should not have to.
Mike Hoffman, 63, said the way his brother’s case was handled was especially galling, given his family history should have made him a priority.
The Christchurch resident was diagnosed with prostate cancer on Christmas Eve 2010, just weeks after a blood test showed an issue.
Because of his medical insurance, he had private surgery less than three months later — including an unexpected month-long delay caused by the February 22 earthquake.

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