A HUGE investment in cancer services in Orange and across the Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) in the past three years is ensuring better outcomes for cancer patients in the area, according to LHD chief executive Scott McLachlan.
Mr McLachlan was responding to a report in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) that showed patients in rural areas were more likely to die of cancer than their city counterparts.
He said the expected improvement in outcomes for cancer patients could be attributed to the installation of two linear accelerators for radiotherapy treatment in Orange and expanded chemotherapy services.
He says there are still challenges to address some inequities, including in outreach services out of Dubbo and improving services in Cowra, and the WLHD is formulating a plan to address gaps in existing services.
“We are currently working closely with the Cancer Institute on a new cancer plan for the region and it is 70 per cent completed,” he said.
“The reality is 95 per cent of people are now within 100 kilometres of cancer treatment ,” Mr McLachlan said.
Mr McLachlan said as the MJA report was based on a 10-year study of the comparison of city and rural services from 2001 to 2010, it excluded the setting up of the of the Orange-based cancer treatment services at Orange hospital and the expansion of outreach services from other areas in the region to more isolated communities.
Mr McLachlan said although some patients from the local health district still had to go to Sydney for treatment for particular cancers, the majority of patients were more able to access radiotherapy and chemotherapy closer to home than they were five years ago.
“We are now fortunate to have a number of medical and radiation oncologists, nurses and allied health workers working towards the same goal and we are starting to reap the rewards,” he said.
However, he said the LHD was looking at strategies in the new cancer plan, which include video conferencing in more isolated areas so patients can communicate with clinical nurse consultants or oncologists during their treatment, to avoid having to drive long distances.