Limit on peritonectomy surgery decried - restricted to 72 NSW patients

Waiting list woes: Professor David Morris is a world leader in peritonectomy surgery. Picture: Tamara Dean
Waiting list woes: Professor David Morris is a world leader in peritonectomy surgery. Picture: Tamara Dean

CANCER patients from interstate are calling on St George Hospital to restore its cross-border peritonectomy surgery arrangements until such time as a nationally funded centre for abdominal cancers is established.

They could, however, be waiting a while as NSW Health has no plans to increase the number of surgical procedures at St George.

It has also been four years since the federal government's Medical Services Advisory Committee recommended the creation of one, or more, national peritonectomy centres.

NSW Health funds 72 peritonectomies at St George each year.

St George is one of only three centres in Australia that performs peritonectomies, and accepts only NSW patients.

Cancer patient Stacey Jaundrey, of Queensland — where 11 operations are funded each year— is on the waiting list in her home state, and has not been permitted to join the waiting list at St George.

Ms Jaundrey said the health system had left her "to deteriorate and perhaps become inoperable".

"We ask for a nationally-funded service so all Australians can get the life-saving surgery that they much need ASAP," Ms Jaundrey said.

Professor David Morris, whose team performs all peritonectomies in NSW at St George, wants to be able to perform more operations.

He said the figure of 72 was not based on any scientific knowledge and was "just a number".

NSW Cancer Institute chief executive David Currow said the 72 operations funded each year at St George was in line with the number of patients who needed it most.

The institute said peritonectomy surgery could offer good outcomes for some patients but was not suitable for those in otherwise poor health.

Peritonectomies involve the removal of cancers in the tissue [peritoneum] that line the abdominal cavity and envelopes the vital organs.

It is one of the most complex types of surgery in the world, and in NSW, 50.4 per cent of patients die within five years of their first operation.

In a recent email to federal Health Minister Peter Dutton, Ms Jaundrell wrote: "Imagine if you were number 73 and had nowhere else to go for this life-saving surgery".

Should NSW Health fund peritonectomies at St George Hospital for patients from interstate?