An SA Legislative Review Committee inquiring into radiation therapy in the Limestone Coast is underway in State Parliament.
A written submission by the Limestone Coast Radiation Therapy Working Group includes the awful experiences of many forced to travel to Adelaide, including Naracoorte’s “Lisa” and “Graham Hinze”.
The contribution from Lisa involves a Naracoorte doctor who sent her straight away for scans after she presented with her breast “not feeling right”.
She could not get all the scans done in Mount Gambier on the same day, so travelled to Adelaide and had all the procedures done there.
“The following day the Naracoorte doctors rang with the bad news and made an appointment with Dr McLeay who visits the South East,” Lisa wrote in the submission.
“I was lucky I got in the next day, he informed me it was cancer and the next journey starts.
“I had more scans in Mount Gambier followed by surgery in Millicent Hospital. The care I received was amazing, the breast care nurse was beautiful and supportive.
“I was booked in to have radiation therapy in Adelaide for five weeks – during this period I caught the bus to and from Naracoorte.
“Eventually the bus trips took their toll and I stayed in Adelaide during the week. I would come home for the weekend and on the bus again Monday morning for treatment at 3:30.
“I was very lucky to be able to stay with family in Adelaide during this time.
“This massive journey we all went through would have been better on my family if I could have stayed home and we could have been together during this difficult and challenging time.
“I had two children who relied on me heavily at the time. When you are the rock that holds your family together you need to be together – this is why we need a cancer treatment centre closer to home.”
Graham Hinze explained he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 when little information was available and he just followed the guidelines of his urologist.
At the time he was an owner operator of a school bus and running a farm.
Mr Hinze spent eight weeks in Adelaide for hormone treatment and radiotherapy – he had to stay an extra week as a result of public holidays.
“I had to pay a full-time driver and someone to check the farm,” Mr Hinze said.
“In true country hospitality it was amazing the help that was offered.
“Unfortunately, I live on the wrong side of Naracoorte and PATS would not cover my travel.
“Today I am retired but still driving a school bus for another operator. If I was to have to have similar treatment today, I would lose $135 per day for the seven weeks and probably $500 a week if I still had my farm.
“A radiotherapy unit in the Limestone Coast would mean I could most likely have treatment every day and still be able to drive the bus.”
Naracoorte’s Lachlan Haynes chairs the Limestone Coast Radiation Therapy Working Party which ran a petition collecting more than 16,000 hard copy signatures, and more than 4000 digital signatures.
As more than 10,000 signatures were received, it forced a parliamentary inquiry.
The Federal Government previously allocated $4.3million for a service, but the State Government rejected it based on the advice from its Mount Gambier based Limestone Coast Local Health Network.
In its submission, the Radiation Treatment for the Limestone Coast Working Party says it is made up of past and present cancer patients with lived experience, cancer support group representatives, regional Health Advisory Council (HAC) members, City of Mount Gambier Mayor and supporting members of parliament, Tony Pasin MP, Troy Bell MP and Ben Hood MLC.
“The aim of the working party is to advocate for radiation treatment to be made available locally to patients living in the Limestone Coast – with a catchment of roughly 68,000 (people).”
This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.