Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had no answers this morning when asked in Parliament why the people of Emerald and the Central Highlands were having to publicly fundraise to try and obtain renal dialysis chairs at the Emerald Hospital.
The question was the latest salvo in a long-running campaign to try and obtain the service and the lack of answers left local MP Lachlan Millar fuming.
“This is not a treatment patients can opt out of. It is life sustaining. I have been raising this issue over many years – in parliament, in the media, in petitions, in questions on notice and ministerial representations. Now the Premier just refers me back to the health minister,” said Mr Millar.
“Despite that, I immediately wrote to the Minister this morning to seek an explanation and to also ask if there are any plans to rectify the situation.”
In responding to Mr Millar’s question, the Premier told the House she had visited a renal dialysis unit in regional Queensland and she believed the service was being rolled out to local hospitals.
“This actually puts an even worse light on the situation in Emerald,” said Mr Millar.
“Without begrudging any fellow Queenslander this crucial treatment, the figures speak for themselves. The centres that have received renal dialysis units have smaller populations than the Central Highlands and are closer to their base hospitals,” he said.
Mr Millar said Bowen (population 9,360), Charters Towers (population 7,979) and Ingham (population 6,304) have all been provided with renal dialysis services at their local hospitals.
“These towns are around 90 minutes’ drive from Townsville Base Hospital making day trips feasible, which is a very real issue for dialysis patients.
“In contrast, the Central Highlands has a population of 28,600 and a drive of three or more hours, one way, to Rockhampton Base Hospital. When the time required for a dialysis session is added to six hours or seven hours of driving this makes day-trips for treatment physically impossible,” he said.
“As a result, we have lost – and continue to lose - valuable members of the community who have been forced to leave their homes in order to be treated. This also means losing their employment or their small business. We also lose their family.”
Mr Millar said the provision of renal dialysis fell firmly within Queensland Health’s responsibilities as the treatment is not covered by either Medicare or private health insurance.
“The Queensland Government should hang their heads in shame that people in the Central Highlands are so desperate for the service they are setting up Go Fund Me appeals and organising community fundraisers like the recent “Paws Walk” in Emerald,” he said.
“Provision of the service at Emerald Hospital is more than justified on the numbers and I call on the Premier and the Health Minister to take urgent action to provide it.”