Already suffering Wakatipu cancer patients are being forced to travel twice as far as they need to for life-saving treatment.
Desperately-ill Queenstowners are enduring long, harrowing trips for regular chemotherapy in Invercargill – yet they could be treated just down the road in Clyde, Mountain Scene reveals.
Community volunteer Glenn ‘Scooter’ Reid, 39, is among patients who can’t understand the 400km round trip for chemo when it’s also available at Dunstan Hospital, only 90km away.
The brave sparkie is three months into weekly treatments for aggressive cancer.
“I travel four hours for one to one-and-a-half hour’s treatment in Invercargill – my mum and dad come with me most of the time and it’s a whole day out. I suffer on the way home.”
Reid also believes if he went to Clyde for his chemo, he wouldn’t feel so ill afterwards.
“I’d wake up and be 10 times better the next day, I reckon.”
He and other local sufferers are stuck with Invercargill because community-owned Dunstan Hospital, in Clyde, is only funded to take Central Otago patients.
Another Queenstowner, Graham Williams, whose wife Alison Naylor has monthly cancer treatment in Dunedin, has complained in writing to Health Minister Tony Ryall about the situation.
“The current position is cruel, to make people travel 400km when they could travel 180km,” Williams says.
“One person I heard of said that on the first treatment she made it to Athol before she was sick, the next treatment she made it to Lumsden and the next one to Winton.
“Once again, the Wakatipu area has been badly treated.”
Local Cancer Society support services coordinator Marie Wales is appalled at the ordeal faced by Wakatipu patients.
“It just sucks, basically,” she says.
“Every person who gets cancer within this area has to travel down to Invercargill and Dunedin for their first treatment.
“It’s a huge burden on a lot of families.
“I’ve got young mums [with cancer] who have kids who need picking up from school.
“It also means they have to find people to take them two hours there and two hours back.”
Wales adds: “It’s tough to have chemo and then go back round that Devil’s Staircase – they’re nauseated, it’s pretty horrible.”