FAIR GO: Doctor Ratnesh Srivastav, staff specialist of medical oncology at the Tweed Hospital.
FAIR GO: Doctor Ratnesh Srivastav, staff specialist of medical oncology at the Tweed Hospital. SCOTT POWICK

Tweed Hospital cancer ward sees 150% increase

THE Tweed Hospital’s two lead oncologists have called on the Federal Government to help fund a regional cancer centre at the hospital.

Dr Ehtesham Abdi and DrRatnesh Srivastav have joined a call by medical staff for the Federal Government to step in with funding for the stricken hospital.

Stage One of the hospital’s redevelopment is due to begin later this year but full funding for the project is yet to be locked in by the NSW Government after estimates blew out from $48million to more than $140m.

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Oncology lead Dr Abdi said in 2009 the former Labor government had set aside $500m for Regional Cancer Centres, but the Tweed had missed out.

Dr Abdi said Lismore Base Hospital had obtained federal support for its cancer centre instead, despite his writing “umpteen letters” and a solid business case for the Tweed Hospital.

Dr Abdi was outraged to learn Gosford and Wollongong – both of which already had Regional Cancer Centres – and Canberra, a metro area, had received funding instead.

His colleague, DrSrivastav, said the decision had left the ward in dire straights, with a 150% increase in patients since 2009 and no extra chemotherapy beds to cope with the influx.

Dr Srivastav said the hospital lacked radiation, an MRI and a PET scan for oesophageal and head and neck cancers. Currently, patients must travel to Lismore, John Flynn, Gold Coast University hospitals or other private services for treatment.

“It’s a fragmented service,” Dr Srivastav said.

“It’s something that always weighs heavily on our minds.

“For a sick patient who is already in hospital, we have to transfer them to John Flynn in an ambulance to have radiation.

“We need more hematologists, more medical oncologists, we don’t have a registrar and we are working in a very constrained environment.

“Everyone here knows about this problem, which is why we are pitching for a Regional Cancer Centre.”

Tweed MP Geoff Provest challenged Richmond MP Justine Elliot to “put her money where her mouth is” in regards to funding for the Tweed Hospital.

“In her term for the Page electorate, Janelle Saffin got $60m for the Lismore hospital,” Mr Provest said.

“We just had (Opposition leader Bill Shorten) up here and got $1m for the soccer fields and before that we got millions for the (Kingscliff) foreshore – come on Justine, put your money where your mouth is.”

But Mrs Elliot, in response, said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had cut $57billion out of health.

“Geoff Provest’s comments prove that only Labor can be trusted to protect Medicare and invest funds in local health and infrastructure projects,” she said.

Nationals candidate Matthew Fraser said he would make representations for an MRI scanner, PET scanner or any other equipment or upgrades.

Greens candidate for Richmond Dawn Walker said, if elected, Greens would commit $4billion to hospitals to 2020.

EXPECTED POPULATION by 2021:

Tweed: 100,000

Coffs Harbour: 80,000

Lismore: 50,000

Source: Doctors turn up the heat for funds



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