I was very pleased to receive a call from the office of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce late last week advising me that we had successfully secured a pledge that a re-elected Coalition Government will contribute $25 million towards vital cancer services for the people of Western New South Wales (NSW).
According to Cancer Council Australia, 1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. With statistics like this it is no surprise why nearly every person you meet these days has either experienced a cancer diagnosis themselves or has been touched in some way by this all too common disease.
As someone who has lived in rural NSW and who has experienced cancer both firsthand and with close family members, I am fully away of the inequity that exists in accessing specialist cancer services in rural and regional NSW. This is particularly true for our far western communities where people are sometimes choosing death over cancer treatment.
In order to access a PET scan, which is often required for cancer diagnosis, residents across my electorate have to undertake the onerous trip to Sydney. The cost, the travel time and the emotional turmoil of making such a trip have such an adverse effect on not only the patient but their families too.
Then there is the aspect of treatment. At the moment, patients in my electorate have to travel to either Orange or Sydney for radiation treatment which can often involve daily treatments for weeks at a time. Again the cost, travel, accommodation arrangements and emotional distress can be heartbreaking. We see families needing to uproot their entire lives and relocate, for often weeks or months on end, or travel hundreds of kilometres each day in order to access treatment that will ultimately save their lives.
I am determined to help change this situation, regardless of whether the Coalition is returned to Government or not. Obviously, if we are re-elected at the 2 July election, the promise of $25 million takes effect and I will sit down with Deputy Premier Troy Grant and the Western NSW Local Health District to work through the construction of this centre as part of stages 3 and 4 of the Dubbo Hospital redevelopment.
Should the Coalition not be returned to Government, then I will continue to work with local medical specialists and Rotary West Dubbo to keep fighting for this centre. If this happens, we will need the petition that is currently in circulation across Western towns. Therefore I encourage everyone to please keep an eye out for the petition and sign it to pledge your support for the centre.
This cancer centre is about the health and wellbeing of the people of Western NSW; it is about our livelihoods. That is something worth fighting for.