Ardern's broken breast cancer screening promises 'costing lives'

Critics slam NZ Labour as National promises to extend free breast cancer screening for women up to 74 years old

Ardern's broken breast cancer screening promises 'costing lives'
ABC / Rebel News edit
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The National Party has announced it will introduce free mammograms for women up to the age of 74 amid anger that Labour had failed to implement the same policy which they promised in 2017.

Andrea Dorn told The New Zealand Herald she only voted for Jacinda Ardern in 2017 because Labour had promised to extend free breast screening for women into their 70s.

She said she was “deeply disappointed” that five years later the promise had still not been fulfilled.

“I changed my vote because [Labour] promised this, so I've lost confidence in them now," she said. "How can we believe anything they say? I don't."

Labour had promoted the policy after the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ presented a 10,000-signature petition calling on Ardern to extend free screening.

Labour included the policy as one of five health priorities in its 2017 coalition document agreed by Labour and New Zealand First.

But the extension has never been implemented.

Currently, New Zealand women aged 45 to 69 years of age are eligible for a free mammogram every two years.

Australia, France and the United Kingdom offer free breast cancer screening to women up to 74.

Dorn warned that many older women could not afford to pay the $230 fee for a mammogram.

“That’s a lot of money for a pensioner," she said. "I worry that for many women of my age, mammograms won't be a priority because of the cost and so there's a chance their breast cancer won't be detected until too late."

National's women's spokesperson Nicola Grigg announced on Tuesday that, if elected, they would introduce free mammograms for women up to the age of 74.

The initiative would cost $21 million.

Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive Ah-Leen Rayner said it was estimated the provision of free screening for older women could save 65 lives every year.

She said the "elation" felt in 2017 when the extension was accepted in the coalition document had turned into complete disappointment at the lack of implementation.

Health Minister Ayesha Verrall did not comment on why the 2017 promise had not been implemented but told the NZ Herald the Government was "committed to ensuring New Zealand women can access the healthcare they need".

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