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Maintaining cancer services during the COVID-19 pandemic: the Aotearoa New Zealand experience
journal contributionposted on 2022-06-24, 23:35 authored by Elinor Millar, Jason Gurney, Suzanne Beuker, Moahuia Goza, Mary-Ann Hamilton, Claire Hardie, Christopher GCA Jackson, Michelle MakoMichelle Mako, Tom Middlemiss, Myra Ruka, Nicole Willis, Diana Sarfati
COVID-19 caused significant disruption to cancer services around the world. The health system in Aotearoa New Zealand has fared better than many other regions, with the country being successful, so far, in avoiding sustained community transmission. However, there was a significant initial disruption to services across the cancer continuum, resulting in a decrease in the number of new diagnoses of cancer in March and April 2020. Te Aho o Te Kahu, Aotearoa New Zealand's national Cancer Control Agency, coordinated a nationwide response to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on people with cancer. The response, outlined in this paper, included rapid clinical governance, a strong equity focus, development of national clinical guidance, utilising new ways of delivering care, identifying and addressing systems issues and close monitoring and reporting of the impact on cancer services. Diagnostic procedures and new cancer registrations increased in the months following the national lockdown, and the cumulative number of cancer registrations in 2020 surpassed the number of registrations in 2019 by the end of September. Cancer treatment services - surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology - continued during the national COVID-19 lockdown in March and April 2020 and continued to be delivered at pre-COVID-19 volumes in the months since. We are cautiously optimistic that, in general, the COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to have increased inequities in cancer diagnosis and treatment for Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand.