Opposition Slams Lack Of North Queensland Cancer Radiation Services

Opposition Slams Lack Of North Queensland Cancer Radiation Services

Queensland Shadow Minister for Health Mark McArdle

Townsville Cancer Patients Never Seen On Time

Victor P Taffa

The Bligh Labor Government’s Radiation Therapy services in North Queensland are a disaster, the State Opposition said today.

Internal Queensland Health weekly radiation treatment reports further reveal that not in a single week between October and December 2010, did Townsville Hospital offer treatment to high priority or planned care patients within the maximum acceptable waiting times (see table).

Shadow Health Minister Mark McArdle said the December Quarter Public Hospitals Report also revealed the average waiting times for high priority care at Townsville Hospital was 17 working days, seven days longer than the maximum acceptable waiting time*.

 

“It is simply unacceptable that high priority care cancer patients, including those diagnosed with head and neck or brain cancer, continue to wait well beyond the maximum acceptable waiting time of 10 working days*.” Mr. McArdle said.

“Just when I thought it could not get any worse, at no time in the last three and a half years has treatment for high priority care been delivered within the 10 working day limit.”

“In the week leading up to Christmas the average waiting time for high priority care was 22 days more than double the maximum acceptable waiting time.”

“It is bad enough for patients to hear they have cancer, but then they learn their survival chances diminish while they are languishing on a waiting list.” Mr. McArdle said.

Just this week the Queensland Cancer Council released an ‘Atlas of Cancer in Queensland’, showing the variation in cancer incidence and survival rates across Queensland.

Townsville Hospital is the only location outside of Brisbane that offers Public Radiation Therapy Services. The ‘Atlas of Cancer in Queensland’ revealed cancer survival rates are lower on average in Northern Queensland than they are in the South-East corner.

“There are many reasons why survival rates differ among regions, one of the most important is access to timely treatment.” Mr. McArdle said.

“For too long the Bligh Labor Government has put lives at risk in North Queensland by failing to provide adequate radiation therapy services.”

“Although Labor plan to roll out ten new cancer radiation machines by 2014, Queensland Health’s own planning documents show this will still mean we have far less machines needed to meet demand.” Mr. McArdle said.

Week ending

High Priority Care (P2)

Planned Priority Care (P3)

Waiting time (working days) Waiting time (working days)
5 Oct 2010

14

24

12 Oct 2010

14

24

19 Oct 2010

14

24

26 Oct 2010

14

24

2 Nov 2010

14

24

9 Nov 2010

14

24

16 Nov 2010

11

21

23 Nov 2010

15

24

30 Nov 2010

14

22

7 Dec 2010

17

27

14 Dec 2010

12

21

21 Dec 2010

22

31

Maximum safe waiting time = 10 working days

Maximum safe waiting time = 20 working days

Source: Directors, Radiation Therapy Services, Memorandum, Weekly snapshot of next available radiotherapy treatment dates, Queensland Health

*Set by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.