5 June 2023

Where's our bulk billing? Wagga's cancer treatment brought into question

| Jarryd Rowley
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cancer care building

Wagga residents want to know why they will be out of pocket for radiotherapy. Photo: Riverina Cancer Care Centre.

Despite being one of the biggest cancer treatment facilities in the state, The Riverina Cancer Care Centre still doesn’t provide bulk billing, sparking state MPs to question the NSW Government’s commitment to cancer patients in the Riverina.

Although Medicare rebates are available at the facility, the RCCC is the only service in the state that requires patients to pay out-of-pocket expenses for radiotherapy treatment.

State Member for Wagga Wagga Joe McGirr brought the issue to NSW Government on Thursday (1 June), as well as a petition requesting bulk billing be made available.

“Wagga Wagga is the only radiotherapy centre in regional New South Wales where patients seeking life-saving, pain-relieving cancer treatment have to meet out-of-pocket costs,” Dr McGirr said.

“It means that the most vulnerable in our community, when they are at their most vulnerable, have to deal with the added stress of finding money for their treatment.”

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Over 12,000 people from the Wagga Wagga region have signed a petition requesting a change to the RCCC’s billing process.

The petition has caused the Murrumbidgee Local Health District to review their current agreement with Cancer Care Group to ensure affordable cancer treatment for patients at the RCCC.

Minister for Health and Medical Research Ryan Park believes the NSW Government can do more to support patients in the Riverina.

“I have to be honest: I think we can do better on this, and we need to do better,” Mr Park said.

“It does not make much sense to me if I am brutally honest about it. I have asked NSW Health, in the spirit of what new Ministers should do, to go back, examine this and pressure test it because I think we can do better.

“What we have to start to realise is that we have to have a lens over things that the city takes for granted in rural and regional health care as well.

“I am going to make sure that priority is placed on rural and regional health care within NSW Health.”

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Dr McGirr said Thursday’s debate has left him confident that the region will see changes similar to that of Griffith in September last year, allowing for bulk billing to be made available.

“The minister’s response I thought was very positive. I actually remain more confident now that we’ll get this sorted,” Dr McGirr said.

“We have in place an agreement that covers Griffith. Frankly, there shouldn’t be any obstruction to applying the same agreement here.

“This issue is now well and truly at the doorstep of the government. The ball is in their court.”

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