The Centralian advocate Fri 18 Dec 2009
Centralian Advocate; NewspaperNT
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Alice Springs; Tennant Creek (N.T.) -- Newspapers; Alice Springs (N.T.) -- Newspapers.; Australia, Central -- Newspapers
Nationwide News Pty. Limited
v. 63 no. 59
Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.
Nationwide News Pty. Limited
Centralian Advocate, Friday, December 18, 2009 17 P U B : C A D V D A T E : 1 8 -D E C -2 0 0 9 P A G E : 1 7 C O L O R : C M Y K NEWS Fees may apply for using non rediATMs. You should obtain and carefully consider the Terms and Conditions brochure before deciding if this product is suitable for you. Australian Central Credit Union Ltd ABN 11 087 651 125. AFSL 244310. Registered to BPAY Pty Ltd ABN 69 079 137 518. ACC14083/CA/einstein Cheers Everyday Account does more than put a smile on your face. A Cheers Everyday Account will: Pay you for BPAY and VISA transactions Allow unlimited Australian Central transactions for a low monthly fee Waive the monthly fee if you meet our reasonable criteria Allow you to support selected charities Isnt that something to smile about? Check out Cheers for yourself. Call 13 13 21, drop in or visit australiancentral.com.au Where is the care? Lesley Reilly, Murray Neck and Julie Coulthard ... adamant that Central Australian cancer patients should have a say on where they receive treatment. Picture: MARION ERLICH Miriam Raphael I think its quitedictatorial. I cant for the life of me see why we should not be given the opportunity to choose the location of treatment THE final touches are being added to the sparkling new $19-million oncology unit at the Royal Darwin Hospital. But as the facility prepares to open, local cancer survivors have raised concerns that Centralians are being given no choice when it comes to deciding where to have radiation treatment. While chemotherapy is available in Alice Springs, cancer patients requiring radiotherapy currently have a choice of where in Australia they would prefer to receive care. Many people in town have family and friends down south and choose to travel to Adelaide or hospitals in Sydney or Perth. Denise Albert, 54, who has had breast cancer and went to Adelaide for treatment said: A huge part of cancer recovery is emotional and social well-being and choice are part of that. Its not just about the medical treatment, its the support you get from family and friends, rather than trying to battle on, on your own. Once the new oncology centre opens in Darwin, early in the new year, there will no longer be a choice for Central Australians. All public patients will be referred up north. The patient assisted travel scheme (PATS), which pays for accommodation and travel costs for Territorians and their escorts in rural and remote areas, will cease to cover new patients who are having radiotherapy other than at Royal Darwin Hospital. If you want to go anywhere else, you will have to take out private health insurance. Everyone knows that when you are sick, the only place you really want to be is at home. But when you live in Central Australia, far from specialised medical services, this is often impossible. So most people who need treatment outside Alice Springs look for a place that feels familiar and where there is a basic support network. Most of the members of the Alice Springs Bosom Buddies breast cancer support group chose to go to Adelaide for radiotherapy treatment, which runs five days a week, for seven weeks. Unlike chemo, where you are stuck in a chair for much of the day, radiation treatment takes a matter of minutes and you can be out of the clinic within half an hour. It also tends to make you feel less ill than chemo. Anne South, 65, said: When you first start, you dont really feel sick, youre quite well, so you need to do other things and meet other people to have that support and to have that distraction. Thats why you need friends or family around who you can go out and do things with. Ms Albert, talking about hospital accommodation. asked: Who wants to just go back and sit confined to four walls in a little box? Central Australians, who have had cancer, baulk at the idea of being forced to spend seven weeks in Darwin, where the tropical weather is so different from the desert heat. They also believe that the Darwin weather, particularly at the height of summer, is not conducive to healing the burns that some people suffer during their course of radiotherapy. Ms Albert said: When youre physically unwell, it is a struggle enough and to try and contend with the humidity, which tires you even more, especially when youre not used to it, is not a good thing. These are not new concerns. They were first raised in 2004, in a report commissioned by the Northern Territory Government into options for radiation oncology services. The report clearly stated that: people living in Central Australia appeared to have a more natural affinity with Adelaide as a major centre of supply and services than Darwin. While it showed that Central Australians generally supported the idea of establishing a full-scale radiation oncology service in Darwin, it indicated a desire to retain the option of referral for radiotherapy to Adelaide. Health Minister Kon Vatskalis is dismissive of claims the government is not listening to the needs of cancer patients in the southern region of the Territory. He said: I think it would be very unfair to ask tax payers to pay for somebody to be treated elsewhere, when they have already paid money for the unit to be constructed here in the Territory. Most of the people in the Territory come from somewhere else. If we have to give money to everybody to travel where they want to travel, then why do we have clinics and hospitals in the Territory? Mr Vatskalis said doctors were describing the new unit as the most modern in Australia and patients would be crazy to go anywhere else. Like the members of Bosom Buddies, Murray Neck, convenor of the 48-strong Alice Springs Prostate Support Group, has no issue with the level of care that will be offered at the state-of-the-art oncology unit. He is angry that the government is depriving Central Australian patients, requiring financial assistance, their basic right to choose where they are treated. Mr Neck said: I think its quite dictatorial. I cant for the life of me see why we should not be given the opportunity to choose the location of treatment. Youre feeling terrible anyway, having to go through a seven-week radiotherapy course, its pretty stressful and in the case of someone who is not physically and mentally fit, I think its an imposition, having this forced on you.