BY ADAM WRIGHT
A SANCTUARY Point woman whose doctor on June 2 ordered she have a colonoscopy within 30 days was told by Shoalhaven Hospital she would have to wait four months for the potentially lifesaving procedure.
Earlier this year Betty Bourke contracted a virus. A month after most of her symptoms had subsided, and following the results from initial tests her doctor Nagy Andrawis requested she have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy.
“He wanted this procedure done within 30 days of me seeing him,” Mrs Bourke said.
“I was in a bit of shock when on June 6, I got a letter from Shoalhaven Hospital that stated my procedure was likely to be in November.
“I was thinking I would have results of the colonoscopy, either good or bad, by the end of July.
“Then I got the letter to say it will be November, that’s nearly six months since I saw the doctor.”
Mrs Bourke and her husband Wally are trying to stay positive about her health but admitted the health scare on top of the long wait had them worried.
Mr Bourke said there were government advertisements encouraging people to act fast in relation to cancer, particularly bowel cancer.
“So what happens when you need a scan and the hospital says no,” Mr Bourke asked.
“I don’t mean to make this political but Shelley Hancock was recently in the media congratulating Shoalhaven Hospital on getting surgery waiting lists down.
“We thought, ‘Well this is good timing, Betty should have her operation done easily in the 30 days.’
“Next week those 30 days will be up.”
Mr Bourke said if something serious was eventually found he hoped the extended wait for surgery would not have a negative impact on his wife’s health.
“We are on a pension but if we can’t bring this forward in our own local hospital, we will have to look at going to Sydney to have his done,” Mr Bourke said.
“I’m not happy about it. We have state MPs Gareth Ward and Shelley Hancock, and federal MP Ann Sudmalis living here in the Shoalhaven. We should be on top of the world when it comes to funding for local health facilities.
“This region has well and truly outgrown the hospital.
“It makes me wonder how many more Betty Bourkes are out there.”
A few hours after the Register contacted the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District about Mrs Bourke’s plight, her procedure was moved up from November to July 25.
Mrs Bourke was relieved at the news.
“This means I’m getting somewhere,” Mrs Bourke said.
“The hospital phoned me on Thursday and said the problem was with my doctor. They said he was booked up until November.
“But I can’t imagine why he would ask me to have the operation in 30 days when he knew he was booked up until November.”
Mr Bourke said he wasn’t going to let go of the issue until the procedure had been completed.
“The fat lady hasn’t sung yet,” he said.
“The sad part about all this is that there are probably a lot of senior people who would just wait and wait.
“But what might start off with something small often can turn into something big if it is not treated soon enough.
“I will be telling everyone else who’s on a hospital waiting list to get onto Shelley Hancock’s office or the paper.
“A lot of people are ending up in the cemetery who probably shouldn’t be there,” he said.
A hospital spokesperson said Shoalhaven Hospital has contacted the patient directly and the issue had been resolved.
“Increased screening processes for bowel diseases have resulted in a steep rise in the number of colonoscopies ordered by specialists,” the spokesperson said.
“This can sometimes result in waiting time increases.
“NSW public hospitals continue to work very closely with the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to ensure public patients are seen as quickly as possible.”