Patients 'out of pocket'

LACK of radiation therapy services at Tweed Heads is forcing local patients to re-mortgage their homes, or forego treatment altogether, according to Tweed MP Geoff Provest.

Mr Provest has seized on a new Audit Office of New South Wales report to renew calls for improved cancer treatment services at The Tweed Hospital.

In its 23 June “Tackling Cancer with Radiotherapy” report, the audit office says significant improvements are needed when providing radiotherapy services to combat the rising incidence of cancer.

“There are currently about 3500 cancer patients on the Tweed, but this figure swells to 6000 when you include sufferers in the southern Gold Coast catchment of The Tweed Hospital,” Mr Provest said.

“Tweed patients have to travel to Coffs Harbour or Brisbane for radiation therapy treatment.

“The Tweed Hospital does buy some radiation therapy services from John Flynn Private Hospital but demand massively outstrips supply and many patients face out-of-pocket expenses.”

“Radiation treatment is delivered via linear accelerators which cost between $3.5 and $5 million each.”

While the report did not single out Tweed Heads as one of the areas in most need of radiotherapy services, Deputy Auditor-General Tony Whitfield said the whole state faced problems.

“I'm concerned that there's no 10-year strategic plan for radiotherapy services across the state,” Mr Whitfield said.

“Over that period, the Cancer Institute of NSW predicts the incidence of the disease will rise by 30 per cent, meaning by 2016, there will be an estimated 45,000 cases diagnosed each year.”

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