House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Constituency Statements

Petition: Health Care

11:31 am

Photo of John AlexanderJohn Alexander (Bennelong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to table a petition on behalf of the Lung Foundation.

The petition read as follows—

Additional funding for specialist lung cancer nurses.

Recognising that the Federal Government funds 98 specialist breast, and 62 prostate cancer nurses, and NO lung cancer nurses, this petition signed by lung cancer patients, nurses, doctors, specialists and other concerned citizens, draws to the attention of the House the disparity in treatment faced by Australians suffering from lung cancer. Lung cancer is Australia's biggest cancer killer and it affects Australians from all walks of life; you do not need to have a history of smoking or vaping to be diagnosed. The stigma associated with lung cancer is a stumbling block to treatment and support. As result, there are NO federally funded specialist lung cancer nurses to help Australians diagnosed with lung cancer in the fight for their life. Specialist lung cancer nurses, like breast cancer and prostate cancer nurses, would navigate critical gaps in the treatment pathway with a lung cancer patient by ensuring: timely patient access to treatment - by helping patients through avoidable and unavoidable health system delays; increased receipt of anti-cancer therapy - principally through holistic assessment practice; decreased inadvertent and avoidable hospital admissions – through timely accessibility via phone or in-person support and guidance; and increased health related quality of life in the post-treatment to end of life phase.

We therefore ask the House to fund a minimum of 15 national specialist lung (health) cancer nurses in the 2020/21 Federal Budget.

From 4225 citizens (EN1306)

Petition received.

Along with my friend and colleague the member for Adelaide I'm honoured to be co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Lung Health. This group raises awareness of lung conditions, particularly lung cancer. It's strange that lung cancer could possibly need an awareness campaign. Everyone knows someone who has had lung cancer, and we know that it's the largest cancer killer in Australia.

Unfortunately, too many of us assume that it is a lifestyle cancer. We assume that to avoid lung cancer we just have to stop smoking. There is an element of fatalism to it too: smokers know the risks in smoking and still continue to smoke; so why help them? This fatalism has led to unequal funding and support from government and society. More than 12,500 Australian men and women will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. Their family and friends hope for the best-practice clinical care from a specialist lung cancer nurse, and therefore better survival and quality of life. But there are only 12 specialist lung cancer nurses in Australia. It is impossible for 12 nurses to take care of 12,500 Australians.

It is no less shocking that only 15 per cent of Australian men and women diagnosed with lung cancer will survive more than five years after diagnosis. And the tragic truth is that lung cancer isn't a lifestyle illness. You don't have to be a smoker to get it. People get lung cancer because they've got lungs, just as people with prostate or breast cancer because they have prostates and breasts. Those other cancers don't have stigmas and get funding; so why doesn't lung cancer?

The Parliamentary Friends of Lung Cancer support investment in specialist cancer nurses, such as prostate and breast cancer nurses, because providing specialist care is proven to increase timely access to treatment and cancer therapy, decrease advertent and avoidable hospitalisation, and increase health-related quality of life in the post-treatment phase. By funding more nurses, we can get people back to health, back to their families and back at work. Investment in keeping people alive saves money as well lives.

This petition calls on the government and the Minister for Health to make provision in the federal budget for 15 lung cancer nurses over five years. It's a small ask, $3 million per year, in the context of a $1 billion budget, but it will make a difference for thousands of Australians facing down the biggest cancer killer—lung cancer.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 11:34