CANCER patients have been kept waiting so long to receive follow-up letters from their specialists that some have died before the advice arrived at their GPs.
A backlog of correspondence needing to be typed up at Westmead Hospital means about 700 people have waited up to three years for the letters to be sent.
In one case, a Sydney doctor received a letter from Westmead about a female patient with advanced skin cancer that had been dictated by a specialist on August 21, 2009, but was not typed up until September 16, 2011. By the time it reached Dr Adrian Sheen the woman had been dead for a year.
Health Minister Jillian Skinner has now ordered a full audit to find out which patients are still alive. She has forced Westmead to hire a host of administration staff starting today and given the hospital three weeks to clear the backlog.