Fears rise after clinic date takes 4 months

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2013
cancer scare
JOHN HAWKINS/ Fairfax NZ

FRUSTRATED: Southland woman Sue Hazlett has been waiting more than four months for a mammogram at Southland Hospital

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A Southland woman who fears she may have breast cancer is frustrated after waiting more than four months to get a mammogram appointment at Southland Hospital.

She now has an appointment to be reviewed in clinic but is still waiting on a mammogram appointment.

Sue Hazlett, whose mother had a double mastectomy and whose grandmother and cousin died of breast cancer, visited her doctor earlier this year after noticing abnormal swelling in her right breast.

Her doctor sent a referral for a mammogram to Southland Hospital on March 5.

When she did not hear back about an appointment, Mrs Hazlett said she contacted the hospital more than once and was told staff had not received her referral.

Her doctor sent another semi-urgent referral to the hospital on June 5, and Mrs Hazlett said she was told an appointment would be within four weeks.

However, six weeks later, she has still not had an appointment, her breast is still swollen and she is growing increasingly frustrated, she said.

"All we want is a mammogram, an appointment just to make sure that what's going on is nothing. Because if it's nothing, sweet. But if it's something, it's grown."

She was also concerned other women were being made to wait too long for mammograms, and feared if they did not have a family history of the disease they would not question the process until it was too late.

Mrs Hazlett's mother, Lee Roberts, had a double mastectomy 21 years ago and said the only reason she was still alive was because her cancer had been detected early.

She was "worried sick" that her daughter was facing the same situation, and was now being forced to wait.

"God forbid if it's too late for Sue. Kew [Southland] Hospital aren't going to know what's hit them."

It felt like the hospital staff did not care, she said.

"It's like they're the Gestapo and they're going, ‘Oh, I can only be bothered to look at these three cases today then I'm going to have a lunch break and go home'. That's what it feels like."

The Southern District Health Board, when asked by The Southland Times, did not provide a wait time for semi-urgent referrals.

However, Women's, Children's and Public Health Directorate medical director Dr Marion Poore said referrals were assessed and prioritised on the clinical information provided by GPs.

"There are a number of clinical factors that determine how quickly a woman presenting with breast symptoms would receive an appointment.

"We realise this has been a stressful time for Mrs Hazlett and we will be in contact with [her] about her appointment and to discuss any concerns she may have."

The SDHB had since advised Mrs Hazlett she would be reviewed in clinic but did not provide her with a mammogram appointment, Mrs Hazlett said.

"If I'd had the mammogram, I would be going to [the clinic appointment] with all the information."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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