Breast Cancer Treatment
BREAST CANCER TREATMENT
Mrs SKINNER: My question is directed to the Minister for Health. What action is the Government taking to combat the incidence of breast cancer in New South Wales?
Mr PHILLIPS: I thank the honourable member for North Shore for her very good question. With some of the concerns that are being raised about western Sydney today I would have thought that it would have been one of the first questions from the Opposition. I would have thought Opposition members would have forgone their usual stunt of raising a matter of public importance or an urgency motion to deal with this important issue. But no; they are prepared to go on the radio but they are too gutless to confront the issue in Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Kiama to order.
Mr PHILLIPS: I will explain why they are too gutless to ask a question on this issue. What plans were in place for cancer therapy and radiotherapy services - breast cancer services - for the people of western Sydney when we came to government? Absolutely zot, zilch, nix - whatever you want to call it. There was no far-sighted plan whatsoever. My predecessor, the Treasurer, as Minister for Health,
introduced a plan. The only way to approach health issues is with sensible long-term planning. The department, the college of radiology and a whole range of experts in the field devised a plan for the development of radiography services around the State. A prime issue in the treatment of breast cancer is access to services. Radiotherapy services are also important to people suffering other forms of cancer. A five-year plan involving $54 million was introduced in about 1990.
If Ros Kelly were handling and distributing it, she would use a whiteboard and all the money would go to Labor seats. Are we putting the facilities into Liberal seats? No. We are determined to provide sensible planning. We have created three centres of excellence in radiotherapy since coming to government. One is in the Illawarra, at Wollongong. The second one is at St George Hospital, in the seat of the honourable member for Kogarah, the seat of my colleague Brian Langton. I hope that helps his preselection. It is part of the $200 million redevelopment at St George. The other centre is not on the North Shore; it is at Liverpool. A brand new cancer therapy centre is currently being constructed at Liverpool. At first it will contain two major machines, with a third to follow a year later. We are not talking about tinpot little machines costing $100,000; each of these centres will cost from $11 million to $17 million to establish. This Government has established three major centres.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Kiama to order for the second time.
Mr PHILLIPS: We heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on radio saying that the Government should move rapidly to replace and repair the machines in the current institutions. That is one of his plans.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Minister for Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs to order for the second time.
Mr PHILLIPS: When we came to government there were three linear accelerators at Westmead. We have added an additional brand new linear accelerator to make four, increasing the capacity by one-third.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Londonderry to order.
Mr PHILLIPS: This Government has replaced two of the three outdated machines at Westmead with new machines, to increase those services. I appreciate that the people of western Sydney are desperate for improved health care services. During 10 years of neglect in health care services very little was done for the people of western Sydney. Certainly no plans were in place when the coalition came to office in 1988. We know there is $300 million for a children's hospital and $80 million for the Nepean Hospital - in the electorate of the honourable member for Penrith - and that $200 million was allocated for a brand new development, including the Caroline Chisholm Women's Hospital at Liverpool, within the electorate of the honourable member for Liverpool.
Those are the sorts of services the Government is delivering, and will continue to deliver, for the people of the west because they need it. Some outrageous remarks have been made over the past 24 hours about the type of breast care services that the women of western Sydney are supposed to be receiving. In Westmead Hospital, women have access to one of the largest and leading cancer therapy centres in the State, and they should use it.
Mrs Lo Po': What is the waiting time?
Mr PHILLIPS: I hear from a member of the Opposition, "What is the waiting time?" I apologise if there is a waiting time at Westmead Hospital, but I cannot build at Liverpool a $17 million radio therapy unit with two linear accelerators and finish it before the end of 1995 when 30 per cent of people going to Westmead come from Liverpool.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Penrith to order.
Mr PHILLIPS: That is the type of service the Government wants to deliver to the people of western Sydney so the people of the Nepean have a centre of excellence. I want to emphasise that stupid comments are being made by some doctors and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, such as, "You can bung those radio therapy machines and linear accelerators anywhere" - these multimillion dollar pieces of equipment - as if we could put them all over the place. Up until recently Victoria had one such machine. Sydney has a number. Three additional units have been placed at centres of excellence. New South Wales has the best network of that type of care of any Australian State.
These units cannot be installed at every hospital; they must be provided at centres of excellence because we must look after women and make sure that they have access to the best options available, be it surgery, radio therapy or other medical treatments that will help them with their cancers. Women with breast cancer need counselling as well. To extend these services for the treatment of all other cancers one must have this equipment at centres of excellence. Members who jump up and down saying they want the latest equipment in their hospitals should think again. Their suggestion goes against all professional advice. The $54 million five-year plan is on track, on time and will be completed on time.
Dr Refshauge: Too little, too late.
Mr PHILLIPS: Too little, too late? What garbage from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. His Government did absolutely nothing about providing these services.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Burrinjuck to order for the second time.
Mr PHILLIPS: Let us see how good the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is when it comes to diagnosis. In this Parliament this week the issue arose about a wonderful plan called second opinion - part of the Opposition policy. I have since found out that one
of the better known cricketers in this Parliament, a member of the press gallery, split the webbing between his fingers at a recent cricket match. He went to the medical clinic, got it stitched up, strapped up and went away. The injury was very painful. This person, a fairly diligent and hard worker in this place, had his fingers bound together because of the pain. He went to one of the doctors in this Parliament, whom I will not name but he sits on the other side of the House, and asked for a second opinion.
The worker said, "What should I do?" The opinion was, "Look, it's all right; it's not broken; it's not fractured. Keep moving it up and down". A few days later it was so painful that he returned for a third opinion. What did he learn? The fingers were fractured. That is the type of opinion and policy development we hear from the other side. It is time to move on with the development of radio therapy in this State and to come up with the next five-year plan. To do that, today I announced establishment of the radio therapy working party, which consists of 10 specialist experts from within radio therapy and health planning, which is essential in sensible health planning matters. The terms of reference are: first, to develop the next phase of the radio therapy strategic plan 1996 to 2001; second, look at the future development of radio therapy services, because they are always changing; and, third, to prioritise the competing proposals in this particular area.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wollongong to order.
Mr PHILLIPS: That is the way to do sensible health planning in this State and the way to make sure that the people of this State receive the best health care being delivered in Australia.