Goulburn Valley Health radiotherapy services
My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is that the minister writes to the federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Sussan Ley, seeking funding for the provision of radiotherapy services at Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton to complement the redevelopment of Goulburn Valley Health, committed to by the Andrews Labor government.
Speaking at a Pink Ribbon luncheon in Shepparton last month, well-known general medical practitioner Dr Kerryn Phelps said she was shocked that Shepparton did not offer radiotherapy services. This was a statement which really echoed true when the Garvan Institute of Medical Research released its study a couple of days later entitled A Rural Perspective — Cancer and Medical Research 2016. The study revealed that a person is more likely to die from cancer within five years of diagnosis the further they live from a major city. It also showed that the drop-out rate for radiotherapy was more than double for rural public hospitals and that people were less likely to access chemotherapy services based on their distance. This proves the need for ease of access to these services.
Albury-Wodonga opened its cancer service in September. It is a $65 million facility which includes 30 inpatient beds, a 30-chair chemotherapy facility, 17 medical and allied health consulting rooms, an education and training facility, a wellness centre, two paediatric treatment chairs, a PET/CT scanner, a brachytherapy service and, most importantly, three radiotherapy bunkers. This is a $65 million facility, fully funded by the federal government under Victoria's health pool, despite the fact that it is located across the border in East Albury.
Shepparton has a local oncology service, thanks largely to philanthropic donations, which matched half of the Victorian government's contribution. However, at $1.9 million and with only 12 chairs and 2 beds, it is a small service. Goulburn Valley Health services a large area, spanning from Echuca down to Seymour and across the border to Jerilderie. It is a hard ask for patients to travel to Bendigo, Albury or, in most cases, to Melbourne, for 10 minutes of radiotherapy. I have heard of patients having to lie across the back seat of cars as they drive for hours to Melbourne for that brief treatment. They are ill, and certainly too ill to travel by train, which I am sure many of you in this house will understand because I have spoken at length about the need for better train services. In any event people who are ill cannot travel by train for those sorts of treatments. It is no wonder radiotherapy drop-out rates are so high in country areas.
As identified by the Garvan report, in a regional area we have the highest rates in Australia of prostate cancer, breast cancer in women, colorectal cancer, melanoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and kidney cancer. According to Cancer Victoria statistics to 2011, the number of people diagnosed with cancer in Greater Shepparton alone each year is double that of Wodonga. We need more studies done on these issues.