Maureen Sidebottom discovered when she moved to Alstonville from Perth that she would have to wait eight months to have blood taken to treat her illness.
Maureen Sidebottom discovered when she moved to Alstonville from Perth that she would have to wait eight months to have blood taken to treat her illness. CATHY ADAMS

Eight-month wait for medical help

ALSTONVILLE pensioner Maureen Sidebottom has a rare blood disease that can leave her feeling lethargic and her body aching with pain.

All she needs is a simple procedure to relieve the symptoms of her potentially life-threatening disease, but getting an appointment is anything but simple.

“I cannot access basic healthcare for a condition that is potentially life threatening,” Mrs Sidebottom said.

“For goodness sake where are the healthcare dollars going?”

After moving from Perth at the beginning of the year, where she routinely visited her local GP to perform a venes section (taking blood) procedure, the 72-year old has been told she must first make an appointment with a specialist at Lismore Base Hospital.

The problem is, last month she was told that couldn’t be arranged until February next year.

“I have had haemochromatosis for about six years, which means there is too much iron in my blood so blood needs to be drawn,” she said.

“When I was in Perth I would go to my GP and he sent me off for a blood test at pathology.

“Then I would go back and he would draw some blood.”

However, since she has been here, the only nearby doctor who bulk bills Medicare doesn’t perform the procedure. The doctor referred her to the hospital.

“I’ve been told I can pay $400 to get it done at St Vincent’s Private, but Michael (her husband) and I are both on the aged pension and can’t afford it, certainly not with electricity prices going up,” Mrs Sidebottom said.

The couple are living in a relocatable retirement cabin.

Her only options revolve around driving to the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Port Macquarie or Coffs Harbour.

However, as her husband recently suffered a stroke and has since been diagnosed with leukaemia, the couple are reluctant to make the exhausting trip.

Mrs Sidebottom said what made the situation even more ludicrous is that, had she been two years younger, she could have simply given a donation of blood at the Blood Bank.

A North Coast Area Health Service spokesperson said while the procedure is done by a nurse at the hospital, it had to be under the direction of the attending specialist haematologist.

“The waiting time is not for the procedure but to have an appointment with the specialist,” the spokesperson said.

“All patients who attend the Lismore Cancer Care and Haematology Unit are assessed by medical officers following blood tests, and are allocated the next available appointed, based on their clinical urgency.”



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