New Zealand leads the world when it comes to bowel cancer deaths, so news that almost half of the specialists who help detect the killer cancer are retiring in the next decade is causing alarm.
Bowel Cancer New Zealand finds the new report on gastroenterology specialists especially worrying, as it claims crucial bowel cancer screening is already behind where it should be because of a critical shortage.
"It's just unacceptable that we in this day and age have not addressed this known shortage, we've known about this for a long time and it needs to be addressed with urgency," said Professor Sarah Derrett of Bowel Cancer NZ.
The organisation believes the shortage of specialists capable of carrying out colonoscopies is slowing down the roll out of the national bowel screening programme.
The screening programme's clinical director says the main cause of delays relates to the IT design, although staffing is a contributing factor.
"We've acknowledged that there is a challenge and we've acknowledged that some DHBs that have rolled out are struggling to meet their total colonoscopy demand," Susan Parry said.
There has been a 28 per cent increase in referrals for colonoscopy, higher than the 20 per cent rise that was anticipated.
Nearly seven per cent of New Zealanders will be diagnosed with the disease, and each year 1200 die from it.
Northland and the West Coast are among parts of the country without a single gastroenterologist.