IMPORTANT advances in access to cancer treatment in central and western NSW will be eroded unless the NSW government increases funding and staffing at regional hospitals like the Orange Health Service.
Reports in metropolitan media and concerns raised with the Central Western Daily by local health professionals and readers point to a health system that is in danger of collapsing under weight of patient demand.
According to one of Orange’s most respected cancer specialists and the leading campaigner for radiotherapy services at the new Orange hospital, the system has reached full capacity.
Dr Stuart Porges says the two linear accelerators at the hospital are now fully booked and chemotherapy services are barely coping, with nursing staff working unpaid overtime to make sure patients aren’t delayed in receiving potentially life saving treatment.
It is an alarming development that demonstrates the huge unmet demand that existed before the central west received its two linear accelerators.
After a long and very public battle to put a stop to cancer patients having to choose between going to Sydney for treatment or receiving no treatment at all, it seems cancer patients in the central west are about to be treated like second-class citizens again.
This time however the situation is slightly different, and far easier to fix.
No longer is it a case of having to prove to health bureaucrats that a radiotherapy unit in Orange is needed and could be staffed and operate effectively. The commissioning of the second unit because of unmet demand quashed that objection.
Now with radiotherapy and chemotherapy operating at maximum capacity it is a case of looking at the enormous growth in patient numbers and increasing funding accordingly.
If this is not done the alternative could soon be cancer patients once again being referred to Sydney for treatment, with all the emotional turmoil and financial hardship that can cause.
The NSW government, the health service, doctors and the community have worked tirelessly to close the gap between country and city cancer services.
Rural patients must not be left behind again.