LOCAL prostate cancer sufferers, who are public patients, will soon be able to see an urologist at Shoalhaven District Hospital.
The urologist who previously provided service for public patients resigned in the middle of last year and a replacement hadn’t been appointed, meaning public patients had to make the trip to Wollongong or Sydney for treatment.
On Thursday the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District announced it had appointed a replacement, who will start at the hospital next month.
For Sanctuary Point couple Don and Dorothy Edwards the news comes as a huge relief.
Mr Edwards, 72, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2001 and underwent surgery and chemotherapy and has had two further bouts of the disease.
He said the appointment was great news.
“It will mean I won’t have to make the long trip to Liverpool Hospital for treatment,” he said.
“This is great news not only for me but all the other patients who were facing trips to Wollongong or Sydney.”
The couple raised concerns about not being able to access a urologist or undergo prostate-related surgery at Shoalhaven Hospital under the public system.
Mr Edwards had previously been treated by visiting surgeons at Shoalhaven Hospital on a number of occasions but was told in August last year the service would no long be available at the hospital for public patients.
He was told if he wanted to be treated in Nowra he could see the surgeon at the private hospital, or could be seen as a public patient at Liverpool Hospital.
“We are pensioners and don’t have health cover, we couldn’t afford the private option,” Mrs Edwards said.
A spokesperson for Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District said until the urologist starts at Shoalhaven, specialist services were being provided at Wollongong Hospital.
“Shoalhaven District Hospital provides general urology services to acute patients, while more complex treatment requires referral to a specialist clinician,” the spokesperson said.
“The urologist previously providing public services at Shoalhaven continues to see his private patients in Nowra, while his public patients have the option of seeing him at Liverpool Hospital.”
The spokesperson said the recruitment of medical staff to service public hospitals could be difficult given that most specialists are also keen to practice privately.
“There is a general shortage of senior medical staff nationally and with Shoalhaven Hospital being a smaller regional facility it can be even more challenging to attract specialist surgeons,” the spokesperson said.