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Couple to tow coffin to Parliament in Pharmac funding protest

Newstalk ZB, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Jan 2020, 11:38AM
Riding in tandem with a coffin in tow to collect signatures to present to Parliament are Camilla and Julian Cox, of Dunedin. Photo: Gerard O'Brien

Couple to tow coffin to Parliament in Pharmac funding protest

Newstalk ZB, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Jan 2020, 11:38AM

A Dunedin couple are setting off on a journey to Parliament, using pedal power and a coffin to get their message across.

Julian and Camilla Cox will depart Dunedin riding a tandem bicycle, with a coffin and skeleton in tow.

The pair will make their way to Wellington to deliver a petition to Parliament asking for changes to Pharmac funding.

Mr Cox said he and his wife were motivated to take action because of the lack of funding of medication for their 19-year-old daughter Rachael, who has cystic fibrosis (CF).

‘‘While her disease is relatively well-controlled right now, Rachael still suffers from CF-related diabetes and pancreatic insufficiency,’’ Mr Cox said.

‘‘She needs access to modern CF drugs in order to prevent her lung capacity from deteriorating further and putting her life at genuine risk, but none are currently funded here.

‘‘It’s heartbreaking seeing your daughter suffer, knowing she could rapidly deteriorate at any time — we can’t wait until the drugs get cheaper.’’

Mr Cox said he came up with the idea of making the trip to Parliament in November while brainstorming how to campaign for change.

‘‘I thought we needed a bold message that would generate interest,’’ Mr Cox said.

The coffin and Hope the skeleton ‘‘represent Kiwis who are dying because they don’t have access to life-saving medicines readily available overseas that the Government’s drug-buying agency cannot currently fund’’, he said.

Mr Cox estimated the coffin weighed about 50kg with their luggage in it.

‘‘It will be difficult riding at times definitely, but it symbolises the difficulty people have in accessing what they need.’’

The petition, organised by Patient Voice Aotearoa, urged the Government to conduct an external reform of Pharmac and called for its $1billion budget to be doubled immediately.

The couple planned to stop at locations across the South Island to gather signatures, Mrs Cox said.

‘‘It takes 30 seconds to sign and every signature will make a difference. If you know someone with asthma, mental health issues or cancer, they’ll all benefit from this.

‘‘It’s about being the fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom.’’

The pair planned to arrive in Wellington on January 22, leave the coffin outside Parliament and present the petition.

- text by Emma Perry, Otago Daily Times

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