Colleen Hawkins, of Gladstone, says going to Bundaberg for chemotherapy treatment is an exhaustive, expensive, three-day ordeal every fortnight.
Colleen Hawkins, of Gladstone, says going to Bundaberg for chemotherapy treatment is an exhaustive, expensive, three-day ordeal every fortnight.

Colleen’s chemo ordeal after Gladstone services lost

CHEMOTHERAPY treatment is an exhausting, expensive, three-day ordeal for Gladstone's Colleen Hawkins, who travelled to Bundaberg for her first round.

The 77-year-old said she was initially diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, before doctors discovered she had pancreatic cancer and was operated on.

Since then, she and her husband have had to stay in a Bundaberg motel for three nights a fortnight, costing $360, for the lifesaving treatment which is no longer available in Gladstone.

A private patient, Mrs Hawkins said all she wants is assurity from The Mater Hospital that she can get treatment in Gladstone and not have to go through another nightmare ordeal of travelling for chemo.

"When I had my first treatment I had to go to Bundaberg and I had to stay three nights," she said.

"When you are getting chemo you are very ill, you're not well."

As part of the treatment regimen, Mrs Hawkins said she was given steroids, so she doesn't feel so sick.

"At least if I get it done here and my husband is asleep I can get up and come out into the loungeroom and watch TV or something to take my mind off how ill I am feeling," she said.

"It makes it so difficult in a motel for three nights at $120 a night.

"At least if I get it done in Gladstone I can come home, and if I can't sleep, like the other night when I was up at 2am, I can get up and try to feel comfortable.

"In a motel I just have to sit in the corner and do nothing, because I can't turn the light on or the TV on because my husband is asleep.

"The whole time I'm not well, I'm wanting to be sick."

READ: Mater hospital to be leased to private company

READ: Key Mater services to stop from Friday

Gladstone Mater Hospital.
Gladstone Mater Hospital.

Coupled with the exhaustion and expense, is the fear of COVID-19, with Bundaberg and Rockhampton her closest options for chemo if things aren't cleared up at the Mater Hospital.

"You have got to look at the virus and they've had some up at Rocky," she said.

"Staying in a motel, you don't know who has been there before you and that terrifies me in itself," she said.

"When you have chemo, you have absolutely no immunity to anything, your immune system is so low.

"You can't go travelling around and staying in motels.

"At my age it's a very serious concern."

Plus there's negotiating the death trap that is the Bruce Highway, Mrs Hawkins said.

"I would like to stay in Gladstone," she said.

"We've got a lot of terminal patients, who are elderly, and how would she go every fortnight going somewhere else.

With the looming state election, Mrs Hawkins said the loss of chemo services in Gladstone would influence how she votes.

"Yes it would make a difference because you vote these people in to help you fight for things," she said.

"There at least needs to be some alternative that you can stay in your own place at Gladstone and get treated.

"Labor, that's really, really bad.

"If it was someone in their family that had cancer and had to have treatment and they had to go travelling every fortnight they wouldn't be happy about it."

Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher has reinforced to residents that they have not been forgotten about when it comes to health services - see story below.

On Friday, Mr Butcher said Queensland Health is planning to have a private health company run the Mater Hospital services under CQHHS ownership of the facility.

Mr Butcher said Queensland Health does not take over ownership of the Mater Hospital until early October and until then the Mater is responsible for service delivery.

Gerard Wyvill, Regional Executive Director, Mater Health said Mater Private Hospital Gladstone understands the significant challenges that Oncology patients face during their treatment.

"Mater Private Hospital Gladstone has not performed any first dose chemotherapy treatments since February 2020, as our visiting Oncologists have been unable to travel to our Gladstone facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions," Mr Wyvill said. 

"All patients are required to travel to Bundaberg or Rockhampton to access Oncology specialists for their first treatment."

"It is a licencing and safety requirement that an Oncologist is present and onsite for a first dose chemotherapy treatment, to mitigate any risk and monitor any potential reaction that a patient may have as a result of the treatment."

"We will continue to provide Oncology Services for any patient who requires ongoing treatment until Friday 25 September 2020 and will work with each Doctor, as they take carriage of their patients during the Mater Private Hospital Gladstone transition of sale to Queensland Health."



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