Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Chris Crawford.
Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Chris Crawford. Jay Cronan

Health boss backs election campaign to cut smoking

CHRIS Crawford says the Northern NSW Local Health District supports further limiting access to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The chief executive was responding to the Cancer Council NSW/Northern Star Saving Life 2015 campaign, which urges the State Government to implement five achievable measures following the March election.

They are:

  • increasing the Aboriginal workforce in cancer services,
  • tobacco retail reform,
  • abolishing chemotherapy co-payments,
  • co-ordinated cancer care, and
  • increased palliative care services.

On the topic of tobacco retail reform and stopping sales to minors, Mr Crawford supported limiting tobacco sales, but stopped short of directly supporting the introduction of a licensing scheme.

Responding to concerns about a lack of indigenous cancer staff, Mr Crawford said: "Cancer services within the Northern NSW Local Health District have access to Aboriginal health staff and literature."

But Cancer Council advocacy team leader Art Beavis said dedicated indigenous cancer staff numbers were still much too low and needed a boost.

The Cancer Council also wants to see chemotherapy co-payments stopped, but Mr Crawford said: "Minimal complaints from patients have been received about these charges."

He said the North Coast Cancer Institute in Lismore did not charge co-payments, but Tweed Hospital Cancer Care Unit had a "variable payment per script arrangement in place".

Mr Beavis said this was inconsistent and confusing for patients undergoing crucial chemotherapy treatment.

The Cancer Council's push for better coordination of cancer care drew a lengthy response from Mr Crawford.

He said the hospital's funding for cancer care coordination ended in June 2014, with the Cancer Institute of NSW "stating the funding to date had demonstrated the effectiveness of the service and that each LHD (local health district) would take on funding responsibility".

Mr Beavis said coordinated cancer care at the health district, and across the state, needed a bigger budget.

Increasing palliative care services to a ratio of one full-time equivalent specialist per 100,000 population was also on the Cancer Council's wish list.

This would mean 34 more specialists would be employed across the state.

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