9 December 2022

MP refutes 'astonishing' claim that cancer funds were redirected from Dubbo to Moruya

| Katrina Condie
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Fitzroy and Mylene Boulting

Fitzroy and Mylene Boulting continue to advocate for the development of a radiotherapy unit at the Eurobodalla Regional Hospital. Photo: Sally Foy.

Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips has stamped out claims that funds were pulled from a Dubbo cancer facility and redirected to the proposed Eurobodalla Radiation Therapy Centre in Moruya.

Mrs Phillips says an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 22 November conflated the two issues.

She says the $2.45 million funding for a cancer patients accommodation extension to the Macquarie Home Stay in Dubbo was a promise made by Nationals Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton during his election campaign.

The funding was to be delivered if the Coalition won government, which it didn’t.

“It is not a case of taking money from one to pay for the other, the two issues are unrelated,” Mrs Phillips said.

Mrs Phillips says the Albanese Government has budgeted for and committed $8 million in funding for the Eurobodalla centre, including $1.8 million in seed funding. The NSW Government will build the facility, so she says the bulk of Federal funds will be held in reserve while negotiations continue.

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ONE New Eurobodalla L4 Regional Hospital advocate Fitzroy Boulting claims the article was “misleading” and has caused a “disputation between two very needy regional local health districts (LHD) for funding resources as if in direct competition with each other”.

“This idea that the loss of part of cancer support services funding in one LHD has been to the direct benefit of another is sheer mischief,” he said.

“Such a proposition would be laughable were it not for the extreme urgency and critical importance of the healthcare services involved.”

Mr Boulting says ONE advocates and the community in which they work, would “never begrudge or seek to dispossess another LHD, especially one with a rural base, of any funding for cancer or other healthcare services to which they are entitled”.

The article, titled ‘FEDS CASH FOR GHOST WARD – $2m for facility in State Labor Seat’, claims the Federal Government has ignored advice from “doctors, health organisations and the State Government” that the Eurobodalla facility would stay empty of both patients and specialised staff.

The article also said the Federal funding was a “lifeline” for the newly elected Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland who has been a champion of the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital and radiotherapy unit.

Mrs Phillips told parliament the article made some “truly astonishing accusations”, suggesting Labor’s commitment to the radiation therapy centre was a “defiant move” by Dr Holland, who has lived and worked in the community for years.

She said Dr Holland “knows the health services in this community better than anyone”.

“They tried to suggest there was something sinister. It is hard to believe what could be sinister about providing lifesaving cancer treatment to a region of 80,000 people,” Mrs Phillips added.

The ONE group has joined forces with charity Can Assist in refuting the “ghost ward” claims in regards to the need for and sustainability of the proposed radiotherapy unit in Eurobodalla.

“If an undersized population catchment is the issue, why is a private provider in the process of building radiotherapy services in both Griffith and Taree where population sizes are significantly lower; some 56 per cent and 38 per cent respectively,” A Can Assist spokesperson said.

“Can Assist Bega and Can Assist Eurobodalla branch spend approximately half of their annual client assistance dollars on travel costs for cancer patients.

“This proportion is notably higher than the Can Assist network average, where some 38 per cent of the $2 million spent on client assistance last year across the state was spent on travel costs.”

READ ALSO Can Assist calls for radiotherapy to be delivered at new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital

Mrs Phillips says the centre will service a region of 80,000 people and she is “committed to seeing this radiation therapy centre delivered as soon as possible”.

“The Eurobodalla community deserves access to lifesaving cancer treatment close to home,” she said.

“Cancer patients in regional areas have a lower chance of surviving cancer than those in the cities, and we know that is because we don’t have the same access to quality treatment services.

“The previous government failed to deliver on its 2019 election commitment to deliver a radiation therapy centre for the Eurobodalla.

“Instead, the NSW Government has continued to site statistics and reports as justification for local people still being forced to choose between Canberra or Sydney for their cancer treatment.”

Mrs Phillips says she has “been horrified by the reaction of the New South Wales Government to our calls for this radiation therapy centre”.

“Who knew that lifesaving cancer treatment could be so controversial?”

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