Last month I received a significant amount of correspondence about the absence of Oncotice treatment at Port Lincoln hospital. Oncotice treatment, which I was unfamiliar with until then, is the administration of Bacillus Calmette and Guerin (BCG), an immunotherapy drug used to treat some non-invasive bladder cancers. The treatment is considered Cancer Treatment, but also is set apart somewhat due to its problematic nature – BCG is a live vaccine.
As many cancer patients in the electorate of Flinders are aware, Port Lincoln Health Services does not provide medium to high risk chemotherapy treatment, only low risk. Two years ago I wrote to then Minister for Health Jack Snelling for an explanation as to why our hospital upgrade did not result in increased treatment for cancer patients. His reply was convoluted and unsatisfactory in that it did not address the question.
Last year I wrote to current Health Minister Stephen Wade, who responded with the news that Country Health SA Local Health Network had sought advice on how cancer services across regional SA, including chemotherapy in Port Lincoln, could be improved. The result was an undertaking by Country Health to determine the reclassification of the PL Hospital Chemotherapy unit to a medium risk level in the future. This, if it were to occur, would be good news as it could mean those whose treatment is classed low or medium risk would no longer have to travel to Whyalla or Adelaide for treatment.
I have written to Minister Wade asking why Oncotice Treatment remains unavailable at PL Hospital and expect a reply soon. I am hopeful that the consideration of reclassification for all cancer treatment might include the provision of Oncotice Treatment. As BCG is a live vaccine, there would be a need to establish appropriate safety measures for both hospital staff and the community before the service could be administered without risk. I will update the community as I gain further information about this and other cancer treatment.