Long distance for cancer treatments

UNAVAILABLE: Julie Ellul says the five minute cancer treatment procedure could easily be made available here in Port Lincoln.
UNAVAILABLE: Julie Ellul says the five minute cancer treatment procedure could easily be made available here in Port Lincoln.

A local woman has spoken out about the long drives to Whyalla for a five-minute cancer treatment procedure that she says could be made available here in Port Lincoln. 

Julie Ellul’s father has to travel to Whyalla weekly to receive OncoTICE treatment for bladder cancer.

She says they are not alone, with many other Port Lincoln residents having to travel for the same treatment. 

OncoTICE is a live vaccine, and patients are required to take extra precautions after taking the treatment, of which Mrs Ellul says causes difficulty when travelling. 

She said it is recommended that when patients need to use the toilet, they are required to use two cups of bleach in the bowl and wait 15 minutes before flushing. 

They also recommend the same toilet is not used by other family members. 

“It’s really very difficult to put that into place, and on the drive back home,” she said. 

She also said due to many patients being in their eighties and nineties, there are also issues of incontinence making the long trips to Whyalla for some extremely difficult. 

“The nurse who treats my father in Whyalla, she has told me about 50 percent of her clients come from Port Lincoln,” she said. 

“Its a big commitment once you start treatment to then follow through.” 

Mrs Ellul said the treatments were required once a week for six weeks, before a patient is assessed, potentially having to return for the same treatments for another six week block. 

She said the ongoing treatments can then take up to two years. 

“It’s a real challenge,” said Mrs Ellul. 

“There’s definitely room here at the hospital….for the time it takes, it’s a no-brainer really, isn’t it?” 

“Even if it doesn’t help us, we just want the services in the Port Lincoln hospital,” she said. 

“It might not help us, but it might help someone else.” 

She said that ultimately, some may choose not to travel for the treatment after cancer surgery, meaning they have a 25 to 85 percent chance of the cancer returning. 

The Port Lincoln Health Service does not have allocated funding for the administration, as there are a range of occupational health and safety requirements that need to be considered before any decision can be made about delivering the vaccine. 

Deputy chief executive officer at SA Health Eyre and Far North Region Verity Paterson said they were trying to determine if the treatment can be delivered at Port Lincoln. 

“While the demand for OncoTICE treatment is low, we are currently meeting with medical, nursing and pharmacy staff to determine if the treatment can be delivered within current cancer guidelines at Port Lincoln Health Service while ensuring the safety of both patients and staff,” she said. 

Mrs Ellul says she has written to Local MP Peter Treloar, federal member for Grey Rowan Ramsey, and the state and federal health ministers. 

Mr Treloar said he had only just been made aware of the issue. 

“My office has only recently been made aware of this treatment, namely the fact it is not available at the Port Lincoln Hospital,” he said. 

“I have written to the Minister for Health Stephen Wade to find out more information and look forward to his reply.”