1:53PM Friday Apr 03, 2009
Wellington, April 3 NZPA - Wellington's child cancer service will be held together by a locum specialist while the search begins for permanent oncologists to replace the husband and wife team who quit yesterday, only six months after starting work.
Christian Kratz and Mwe Mwe Chao arrived from Germany with their family last October to reopen the service which had been forced to close by the resignation of their predecessors.
For nine months, gravely ill patients were sent to Auckland or Christchurch for treatment.
Dr Chao was not prepared to discuss why they were quitting, but said she and her husband were "really sorry it's not working out".
Capital and Coast District Health Board today issued a statement acknowledging the "positive work" the pair had achieved in their short time at Wellington Hospital, but gave no reasons for their departure.
Dr Chao and her husband, a world-leading researcher into the genetic origins of cancer, will leave for the United States in August.
A paediatric oncologist had already been employed and would start work in May, initially as a locum, said the DHB's clinical director of child health services Graeme Lear.
An international recruitment search was under way to find suitable specialists to fill the permanent positions.
"We are very conscious about the on-again, off-again nature of the service and believe the solution requires an integrated national service with close links to Auckland and Christchurch."
The service manages around 25 new referrals a year and provides highly complex treatments that in most countries were not usually available in public hospitals the size of Wellington's, Dr Lear said.
"We acknowledge that this news may be of considerable concern to our patients and their families and wish to reassure them and future patients in the lower North Island that we are doing everything to ensure continuing access to best practices in clinically appropriate timeframes."
Child Cancer Foundation central region chairman John Robson said Drs Chao and Kratz had provided excellent treatment and their resignations raised concerns about the DHB's ability to deliver on undertakings about the stability of Wellington's child cancer service.