Cancer Council urges NSW Government to improve support for cancer patients
By Cancer Council NSW
Cancer Council NSW has submitted pre-budget recommendations to the NSW Government to improve access to care for those in rural and regional NSW and to support the emotional and financial wellbeing of people with cancer across the state.
Cancer Council NSW’s CEO, Professor Sarah Hosking says, “For people affected by cancer, COVID-19 has added enormous emotional and financial pressures at a time that is already incredibly difficult. In regional and rural NSW, where cancer care can be more difficult and less affordable to access, it has been an especially worrying time.
“That’s why Cancer Council is asking the NSW Government to provide additional support for people affected by cancer to manage the additional mental health and financial strains caused by the pandemic.”
The charity’s submission details four recommendations to address some of the most pressing needs for people facing cancer at this time of unprecedented uncertainty and distress. The recommendations are:
Provide funding to increase access to cancer-specific counsellors
Provide funding to increase access to financial counsellors for people with cancer
Increase the subsidy rates for the Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Scheme (IPTAAS)
Expand IPTAAS eligibility criteria and include people with cancer travelling for clinical trials
Although psychological support services provide essential support for people with cancer, there aren’t enough counsellors in NSW. There is also not enough financial counselling for patients who are experiencing financial hardship.
“While people affected by cancer often need specialised support to help them navigate the unique financial and emotional trauma of cancer, there is a real lack of cancer specific services in NSW. As the rest of us learn to live with COVID-19, those that are immunocompromised and vulnerable are living with heightened levels of stress and anxiety,” Professor Hosking said.
Cancer Council NSW’s highly trained financial counsellors have extensive experience helping people with cancer manage the devastating financial impacts of a cancer diagnosis but they’re working at capacity.
“Our incredibly hard-working counsellors are exhausted. They’re worried that they’re not reaching the many people affected by cancer who are left to deal with the added pressures of the pandemic alone,” added Professor Hosking.
By increasing funding in these areas, the NSW Government can ensure that people with cancer who are falling through the gaps, can get the support they need.
Everyone in NSW should be able to access cancer care when and where they need it. However, for those living in regional communities, the financial cost of travelling and being away from home can be so high that it stops them accessing treatment.
“We know that a cancer diagnosis costs a household at least $43,000 and one-in-five people with cancer living in regional NSW skip care because of out-of-pocket expenses. The Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Scheme offers people with cancer in regional NSW a financial subsidy to offset the cost of travelling to treatment but excludes some patients and leaves others with huge bills for accommodation and transport,” said Professor Hosking.
To ensure that people affected by cancer living in regional NSW can access the care they need, IPTAAS subsidy rates need to increase, and its eligibility criteria needs to be expanded, especially to allow access to clinical trials.
“Evidence clearly demonstrates that the chance of dying from cancer increases with distance from major centres. Little progress has been made in the past 20 years to close this gap and we are concerned that the impacts of the pandemic will worsen these inequalities,” concluded Professor Hosking.
The issues raised in this pre-budget submission might be issues you are dealing with. Our services are here for you. Please call Cancer Council’s Information and Support line on 13 11 20 to discuss how we can support you or a loved one affected by cancer. Find out more.