Karen Hanlon with her husband, Stephen, was happy to hear that patients may soon have access to reconstructive surgery.
Karen Hanlon with her husband, Stephen, was happy to hear that patients may soon have access to reconstructive surgery.

A brighter future for cancer care

By SAMANTHA TURNBULL

A DECADE'S wait will be too long for Karen Hanlon, but she is happy other cancer patients will be a top priority in the North Coast Area Health Service's (NCAHS) draft 10-year plan released yesterday.

The 39-year-old Goonellabah woman has struggled to find a surgeon to perform a breast reconstruction following a mastectomy last February.

"It's very inconvenient not having a surgeon on the Northern Rivers who can perform a reconstruction," she said.

"I've organised to have it done this year by a Port Macquarie surgeon, which could mean I'll have to travel that far home in a car after major surgery.

"It's either that or the Gold Coast."

However, the situation may improve for other patients with plans by the NCAHS to appoint a plastic surgeon and establish reconstructive services in the Richmond and Tweed/Byron regions.

The proposal is one of 375 recommendations in the NCAHS draft Health Care Services Plan 2005-2008.

The recommendations focus on a three-year time frame, however the plan provides an overview for a 10-year period.

NCAHS chief executive Chris Crawford said the most significant part of the plan was the expansion of services for cancer patients from Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads.

"For the first time we will have integrated cancer services on the North Coast in Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie," he said.

"Up until now people have had to travel to Newcastle or Brisbane.

"Lismore will have a fullyequipped cancer unit with radiotherapy by 2008-2009."

The NCAHS will also explore the option of a contract with a Queensland provider to allow public access to radiotherapy and diagnostic interventional cardiology services for patients in the northern part of the Tweed.

Other major initiatives include an expansion of mental health services, including the establishment of a mental health unit at the Lismore Base Hospital by 2007 and a 1300 phone number for patients to gain advice from mental health professionals.

Mr Crawford said a broad goal was increasing bed numbers at all major hospitals in the region.

The draft plan will be on public exhibition online at www.ncahs.nsw.gov.au with feedback encouraged until April.

What do you think?

Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- ions@northernstar.com.au



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