Cancer Control Agency open, Prime Minister hails Blair Vining's 'tireless advocacy'

This story was originally published on Stuff

The Prime Minister has acknowledged Blair Vining’s “tireless advocacy” as the new independent Cancer Control Agency was formally opened on Tuesday.

During Vining’s final months, as he was dying from cancer, the Southlander pushed for the Government to set up an independent cancer agency to improve cancer care for New Zealanders.

In September, a matter of weeks before Vining died, he attended an announcement in Auckland where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the Government’s Cancer Action Plan, which included setting up a cancer agency.

On Tuesday, weeks after Vining’s death, the cancer agency has been opened.

Ardern pointed to the work of Vining when she announced the agency as open.

“I want to acknowledge those who’ve worked so hard to ensure better cancer care in New Zealand, especially Blair Vining whose tireless advocacy for the establishment of this agency has left an important legacy,” Ardern said.

​”Today’s official opening marks the start of a new era for cancer care in New Zealand. The Cancer Control Agency will play a critical role in ensuring all New Zealanders get world-class cancer care, no matter who they are or where they live.”

Ardern and Minister of Health David Clark also announced the makeup of the advisory council that will support.

Included is Dr Chris Jackson, a medical director of the Cancer Society, medical oncologist, and senior lecturer at the University of Otago.

Jackson was also Vining’s doctor and the pair became close as they battled together for better cancer care in New Zealand.

Other council members include Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Dr Nina Scott, Dr Richard Sullivan, Shelly Campbell, Graeme Norton, Professor David Tipene-Leach, and Alisa Care.

Professor Diana Sarfati has been appointed by the State Services Commission as interim chief executive for the agency.

Health Minister Dr David Clark said recruitment was underway to bring the agency up to close to 40 full time staff.

“Professor Sarfati and her team will be supported by [the] advisory council made up of leading clinicians, experts and consumer representatives. The calibre of the people who have agreed to be members of the council speaks for itself, and shows just how committed the entire health sector is to making progress on cancer.”

Consultation on the Cancer Action Plan has now been completed, with nearly 400 submissions received from individuals and organisations.

The final plan will be released early next year.