Cancer story

I write to you regarding the Cancer Care Services available to patients in the Country Health Local Health Networks, specifically the Riverland General Hospital.

I understand that in 2018 there was an announcement to implement an upgrade to the Cancer Care Services at Country Health LHNs of $6.9m over 4 years, including Riverland General Hospital to medium level, however, I ask that consideration be given to upgrade the service to high level.

In 2017 a report conducted by Torrens University Australia revealed that Renmark topped the list of all cancers, 43% above the national average. The results of a study such as this would warrant a high-level oncology treatment available for Riverland patients. The benefits would be enormous for patients, their families and the support networks. The upgraded service would also provide extra jobs in the Riverland for clinical staff and allied health services. Cancer patients who have to travel from the Riverland to Adelaide for oncology appointments and treatment places a lot of burden on the patient and their support networks. There is accommodation and transport to arrange, then transport from the accommodation to the hospital and back again. Often the timing of appointments does not line up with free transport so there is added cost and more coordination of services. This can be an exhausting process for patients who are already going through a stressful time that could be alleviated by having the appropriate care provided in their home environment that is familiar and removes that extra burden of organisation, cost and being in unfamiliar surroundings.

I have three family members; my father, his brother and his daughter from Renmark who have had cancer (two deceased) and have had to endure the extra stress of travelling to Adelaide for treatment. It is a three hour drive each way and often involves one or more nights away from home, putting extra pressure on the cancer patient, families and friends. In the case of my father it was the thought of this extra burden that was a factor in deciding to end his treatment for pancreatic cancer.

My cousin recently had treatment for breast cancer at the Lyell McEwin Hospital which is extremely inconvenient in terms of accommodation as the Lyell McEwin Hospital is in the northern suburbs with limited access to accommodation. The inconvenience is exacerbated by the fact that the oncologist appointments were often made early in the morning on the day of treatment, therefore an extra night away from home was required. With the appointment being early in the day, my cousin often needed to wait for several hours at the hospital before treatment, with the added risk of infection. The appointments with oncologists before treatment is another factor for having a high-level cancer care unit in the Riverland, as consideration is not given for country patients who must travel for the appointment.

The travel and disruption to the lives of patients, friends and family adds more stress and cost to an already traumatic situation for everyone involved. Not to mention the added risk of road traffic accidents with patients and or their family driving long hours in an emotional state.

I ask that you consider the recommendation for a high care facility in the Riverland.

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