Cancer services under pressure: nurses struggle with increasing workload

HIGH HOPES: Cancer treatment advocate Dr Stuart Porges discusses cancer services with ongologist Dr Peter Fox in November last year at Western Care Lodge for cancer patients. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 1116sgoncol1

HIGH HOPES: Cancer treatment advocate Dr Stuart Porges discusses cancer services with ongologist Dr Peter Fox in November last year at Western Care Lodge for cancer patients. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 1116sgoncol1

CHEMOTHERAPY staff at Orange hospital are struggling to provide services to cancer patients, with no additional nursing staff appointed in the past three years, despite the number of patients more than doubling.

Orange surgeon and cancer care advocate Dr Stuart Porges said he was disappointed to learn nurses were working unpaid overtime to ensure patients were treated in a timely manner.

Dr Porges said he was concerned at comments made in the Sydney media last weekend by Orange oncologist Dr Peter Fox, that within the next 12 months patients from Orange and Bathurst may have to travel to Sydney because current workloads could not be maintained.

While Dr Fox was unavilable for comment yesterday to the Central Western Daily, Dr Porges called on the Western NSW Local Health District to review its funding and provide adequate staff for the provision of chemotherapy services so there were no delays or waiting lists.

Orange Health Service has been the subject of tight budgetary reviews over the last 12 months to rein in millions of dollars of debt in the previous financial year.

Dr Porges said while Orange had gone ahead in leaps and bounds with its radiotherapy services, with two linear accelerators based in Orange, there needed to be equity across all services for cancer, involving the combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

OUR SAY: CANCER TREATMENT IN CRISIS AGAIN

“It seems the provision of chemotherapy is not keeping up with the other cancer services we provide,” he said.

“We have come so far in the way we provide cancer treatment for patients in Orange and we really need to look closely at this problem and find a solution.”

Orange is the only centre in the Western NSW Local Health District that offers linear accelerator facilities for radiotherapy treatment.

However, chemotherapy services are offered at various locations throughout the health district.

Last year Orange cancer services unit treated 4000 patients with chemotherapy, up from 1600 three years prior.

Dr Porges hopes funding might be made available by Orange service organisations in the future to help fund clinical trials for patients who would otherwise have to travel to Sydney for more complex treatment.

Orange Health Service was contacted yesterday and was formulating a response.

Member for Orange Andrew Gee was also contacted for comment on the issue and will respond to the request today.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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