House debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021


WP Holman Clinic

12:39 pm

Photo of Bridget ArcherBridget Archer (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Almost 100 years ago in Launceston, a young Dr William Prout Holman began administering radiation therapy services at a local private hospital after obtaining radon needles from Brussels. Today the WP Holman Clinic, established in 1952, and renamed after Dr Holman in 1986, is the leading provider of treatment for cancer patients in Northern Tasmania.

The clinic has been expanding at an average rate of around 10 per cent per year for the last six years, with almost 2,000 patients attending the clinic annually. Supporting the clinic and its ability to deliver top-line treatment to the patients that enter its doors every year has been a focus of both this government and the Tasmanian Liberal government. This joint commitment and partnership led to the delivery of a new state-of-the-art CT scanner and linear accelerator to the clinic last year, as part of a $28 million upgrade to our state's ageing oncology equipment, through the Commonwealth Radiation Oncology Health Program. Its investment in the best equipment, combined with access to the most advanced treatment, has led to an increase in cancer survival rates, which is an incredible outcome. In 2019 it was reported that almost seven out of 10 Australians will survive at least five years beyond a cancer diagnosis, and, between 2011 and 2015, relative survival for all cancers combined was 69 per cent, up from just 50 per cent between 1986 and 1990.

There wouldn't be many of us who have remained untouched by cancer in some way. I lost my own father when I was just eight years old. He passed away within a matter of weeks at the age of just 42.

To see the survivor statistics is extraordinary, but there does need to be a focus on assisting cancer survivors to live well post treatment. Over the past 12 months, I've had a number of conversations with compassionate and dedicated staff at the clinic about the topic of survivorship and exactly what's needed to provide the right care for those who have survived a cancer diagnosis. Annually over 3,500 Tasmanians receive a diagnosis of cancer, and over two-thirds of them are likely to experience one or more survivorship care needs, which, as pointed out by Holman clinic staff, needs to go beyond disease surveillance by oncologists and surgeons.

I think our society, to a degree, expects survivors of cancer to be thankful that they're alive and that life should resume as it was before their diagnosis and treatment. Yet research has indicated that following cancer treatment many cancer patients and their families describe a void of care, information, knowledge and support, regardless of their geographical location. It's important to point out that people in low socioeconomic groups, rural and remote areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have poorer cancer outcomes and access to comprehensive cancer services, including survivorship care. Regardless of background, after the shock of a diagnosis, the physical, emotional, mental and financial trauma a cancer patient endures can be tremendous, and the expectation that they will just pick up life where they left off is unreasonable and detrimental to leading a more meaningful life post cancer. Research undertaken by the clinic has identified these gaps and pain points, with one cancer survivor stating, 'Everyone was so helpful during treatment, but afterwards there wasn't really anyone to call,' while others, when discussing life after treatment and their recurrent fear, have said, 'I'm still not right almost a year later, and you always think about it coming back.'

The Holman clinic is leading the way in advocating for cancer survivorship services that support patients, their families and the broader community to live healthy, well-informed and meaningful lives. Led by clinical nurse consultant Sarah Coulson, staff at the Holman clinic have been developing plans for what a survivorship care service could deliver for clinic patients. The service would aim to provide specialist clinical advice for patients and their families and other healthcare professionals relating to cancer survivorship. Additionally, the proposed project would look at coordinating and running support groups, in conjunction with NGOs and community partners, and mapping, promoting and linking cancer survivors and their families with existing services, while undertaking quality improvement projects to close gaps in services and resources. There'd also be a strong focus on self-empowerment, while providing education and support to the local community about cancer and living beyond a diagnosis.

Thank you to Sarah, Dr Stan Gauden, the director of the Northern Cancer Service, which includes the Holman clinic, and the incredibly professional and dedicated staff at the clinic for the work that you do and for raising the issue of the importance of cancer survivorship with me. I look forward to working further with you and doing what I can to ensure that your survivorship project can get off the ground.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 12:44