An Eden resident was allegedly told by her referring doctor and surgeon a cancer-related operation could not be done in at the South East Regional Hospital because of a lack of staffing in the intensive care unit.
Susan Alsop was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer six weeks ago after collapsing in her home.
She was referred to a visiting surgeon who advised her they were able to conduct the operation, but could not do so in Bega due to a lack of staffing in intensive care required for post-surgical care.
“So I have to travel to Wollongong to get tests done and after I get the results I need to wait in a queue to be admitted into St George Hospital in Sydney,” Ms Alsop said.
She was frightened by the operation and the stress of being so far away from home only added to the fear.
“Apparently they have to take out the whole of the pancreas,” she said.
“I don’t really want to think about it too much.”
She has not been offered oncology services in Bega either – despite the existence of a state-of-the-art oncology unit - saying all her treatment “is out of Wollongong”.
“There are other people like me who will be affected,” Ms Alsop said.
“I just find it unreal that we have this multi-million dollar hospital in Bega where I can’t get the necessary operation due to staffing levels.”
Ms Alsop said her medical team have been “marvellous” and did not want her surgeon’s “head in the noose” as a result of her speaking out.
The surgeon in question was approached for comment, but is currently out of the country on leave.
In a statement, the Southern NSW Local Health District said people with pancreatic cancer should be referred to higher-volume hospitals – such as Royal North Shore, Westmead and St George - for the best outcomes.
“There is consistent international evidence showing that higher-volume hospitals are associated with lower post-operative mortality and better longer-term survival after complex procedures for rarer cancers including pancreatectomy,” the statement read.
“No matter what public hospital the patient is to be admitted to, they would be placed on a waiting list according to the urgency of the surgery.
“If the surgery is urgent, it will be performed in a clinically appropriate time.”
The South East Regional Hospital has been the centre of continued unrest since the $187million facility opened, with 45 workers walking off the job on September 14 to protest alleged staff shortages.