6 WEEKS TO THE NSW ELECTION – PART 2
MORUYA RADIOTHERAPY UNIT – A COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE
By Arn Sprogis
While checking the evidence base and political statements on the potential for a Radiotherapy Unit (RTU) in Moruya I was surprised that the response to the far south coast
community by NSW Health and the two NSW Health Ministers was so lacking in
transparency with little sign of an appreciation of patient impact and outcomes.
Radiotherapy is a key part of the treatment for various types of cancer. Patients from our
region needing radiotherapy travel long distances daily for weeks on end to receive
treatment or must stay away from home for long periods.
Worse still some cancer sufferers do not receive treatment finding the process, particularly the distance travelled too hard.
There is clear evidence from the relevant expert bodies that distance from the RTU is a very
significant factor in lack of access to treatment and poorer outcomes in rural areas. The
Australian Cancer Atlas (https://atlas.cancer.org.au/app) indicates significant excess deaths
from cancer in the Eurobodalla. The far south coast community with its petition of 5000
signatories has raised the more than reasonable question whether this would be improved
by a RTU closer to where people with treatable cancer live.
The importance of reducing the distance to an RTU for rural cancer patients prompted the
previous Lib/Nat Commonwealth government to provide access to funding to support a RTU
in 13 rural/regional centres including the Eurobodalla, and the current Labor government
has doubled the offer.
NSW Health did not pursue the offer by the Commonwealth government on both occasions despite there being interest from private RTU providers.
There are RTUs in other parts of regional NSW with similar or smaller populations than the
Far South Coast, so why isn’t there a RTU in Moruya?
Most importantly, there has been no detailed community disclosure of the data and
rationale for the decision or any serious attempt by NSW Health to engage the community
in an informed discussion on this critical issue.
After yet another major petition and a looming election, the Minister for Rural and Regional
Health Bronwyn Taylor issued a more considered response and consultants have been asked to review and report on the RTU issue. The Minister should be commended on her initiative but with the strong proviso that the consultants must publicly report prior to the election so that the community is adequately informed and can vote accordingly.
The Bega electorate is waiting to see what each major party will offer as far as a RTU in
Moruya is concerned and then vote accordingly.
Regardless of who forms government following the election there must be greater
transparency and shared community decision making by NSW Health. So far, past
communication by NSW Health has not been sufficiently community focussed.
Image AUTHOR – Dr. Arn Sprogis (retired)
Now lives in Tuross Head (arrived just before the fires). Prior to retirement he was a had a 30-year history as a rural then regional GP (now retired). During that period, he was also responsible for developing large scale improvements in General Practice systems of care at a regional, state and national level including GP/hospital integration within emergency departments across the Hunter region. In addition to being a GP he was the CEO Hunter Urban Division Of General Practice, Board Member Hunter Urban Medical Local, Chairman Australian Medical Local Alliance and member of the NSW Health Ministers Clinical Council during the previous NSW Labor Government. His lifetime commitment is to get equal access to high quality health care for rural and regional communities.