Oncology reports deemed incorrect

FIGURES just released on waiting times for cancer treatments in Coffs Harbour do not reflect the current situation, according to the director of the North Coast Cancer Institute.

Associate Professor Tom Shakespeare said Coffs Harbour was meeting state benchmarks for radiotherapy treatment of both emergency and non-emergency cancer patients.

NSW Health uses the benchmark of treatment within 24 hours for urgent cases and 14 days for curative cases.

This benchmark was set by the Australian Council for Healthcare Standards.

Sydney media outlets claim emergency cases in Coffs Harbour were waiting 4.6 days for treatment and non-emergency cases were waiting up to 50 days.

Associate Professor Shakespeare said the 4.6-day figure was incorrect and the 50-day figure was correct, but out of date, because the data was for the six months up to March 2010.

He said Coffs Harbour’s second linear accelerator only came up to full capacity in April and the 50-day figure reflected the waiting list that had built up in anticipation of the second machine going on line.

“At that time we were still trying to ‘break the back’ of the waiting list and I’ve been holding the fort on my own,” Associate Professor Shakespeare said.

“We have only just had our second radiation oncologist join us.”

Malaysian-born Australian-trained radiation oncologist Dr Rahim Tahir started work at Coffs Harbour a month ago.

“I don’t see waiting times at Coffs Harbour as a significant issue.”

Associate Professor Shakespeare said the Coffs Harbour radiotherapy unit was also treating patients from Lismore and Port Macquarie, as those hospitals were both still waiting for their second linear accelerators and when these were installed, which is planned for next year, he expected the pressure on Coffs Harbour to ease considerably.

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