Return our breast screening vans
A SMALL army of pink shirts and posters contrasted the grey sky in Ballina yesterday as a group of women protested against the State Government.
They were rallying against a decision by the North Coast Area Health Service to remove mobile breast screening vans from towns including Ballina and Byron Bay.
Robyn Pinter, from the Ballina Breast Cancer Support Group, said the missing screening van was having a negative impact in Ballina.
“It’s amazing how many women have said to me ‘I’m just not going to have my screening now the van is gone,’” she said.
Ms Pinter said the State Government did not realise the effect of its decision.
“I think they are a little bit out of touch with what actually happens on the ground,” she said.
NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt has defended the decision, saying there were improved fixed screening services at hospitals like Lismore Base to make up for the mobile van being removed.
But at yesterday’s rally, Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader dismissed suggestions the current level of screening services were adequate.
“To think this is a better outcome for the women of Ballina is quite a joke,” she said.
Cr Jeff Johnson, who also attended the rally, said it was crucial there was equality of access to health services across the Northern Rivers.
“It’s a social equity issue. The women of Ballina have a right to equal access to medical treatment,” he said.
Cr Sue Meehan, who used the screening van when it visited Ballina, said having the prominent van in town was central in getting women to act.
“It was only seeing the van that puts it your head, ‘I’ve got to do it’,” she said. “It’s right there confronting you every day as you drive to work.”
State Ballina MP Don Page said he had submitted a petition to the Parliament containing 1300 signatures opposed to the removal of the Ballina van.
“My office is consistently contacted by concerned residents who can no longer access the mobile breast screen service,” he said.
“Many of them have difficulty accessing the fixed services in Lismore or Tweed Heads due to lack of transport, or work and family commitments.”
Another protest rally was held in Byron Bay yesterday.
Byron Shire Councillor Diane Woods said she wasappalled by the decision toremove the screening van.
“It’s absolutely disgusting they’ve taken it away,” she said.
Further protests are plan-ned for the coming weeks.