Haematology Services for the Southern Highlands

A successful outcome in 2018 : 
Visitors to this webpage on our site will know that our Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee, aided by good publicity from our local newspaper, the Southern Highland News, has long advocated for an improvement to haematology services in our district. Specifically, we sought to have local uninsured haematology patients treated locally instead of having to travel to Liverpool for every treatment.

Having commenced our campaign way back in 2011, we can now take some satisfaction in recognising that a successful outcome has been achieved : 
From January 2018, public patients can now have a consultation with a specialist haematologist at the Cancer Centre within the Southern Highlands Private Hospital and, more importantly, public patients can now receive their treatment there as well. The haematology specialists, Dr Silvia Ling and Dr Minh Hua, are available at the Cancer Centre on Tuesdays. 

At that time, they are able to provide consultations and order the treatment protocols. Where necessary, treatment is also given when the specialists are in attendance; otherwise, on the other days, the prescribed treatment can be provided, according to the protocol, by the qualified staff of the Cancer Centre.

This successful outcome for uninsured patients would not have been achieved without sustained backing for our claim from Prof Geoff Delaney, Director of Cancer Services, South West Sydney Local Health District. The initiative has also been progressed by collaboration between Southern Highlands Private Hospital and the LHD, in particular the work of Jenny Harper, CEO of Southern Highlands Private Hospital, and the support of Assoc. Prof. Stephen Della-Fiorentina, medical oncologist and a member of our committee.

A further update (2017) :
We are now able to report that genuine progress has been made on this matter !
Work is well underway in making local treatment a reality for uninsured haematology patients. It has taken some time - too long really - to bring this about, but our committee is pleased to know that the commitment is there on both sides to make this work. We are waiting now while some technical computer issues are ironed out so that the public and the private health systems can work together to look after each patient's records properly. Further information will be made available here when the new system is officially ready to go.

The situation in 2016 :

Haematology services for the Highlands ?
Visitors to this webpage would know that we have had an ongoing need for improved services in this district for haematology patients. It is now time to set out some detail on what the issue is. If you are a self-insured patient, you can receive your treatment at the Southern Highlands Private Hospital. If you are an uninsured patient you can have a consultation at Bowral and District Hospital with a haematologist who comes from Liverpool. But for treatment the uninsured patient must travel to Liverpool every time.

The Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee has long believed that, wherever possible, those patients would be far better off if treated closer to home. This treatment could be achieved by a contract agreement between South Western Sydney Local Health District and Southern Highlands Private Hospital, similar to the currently existing agreement for Medical and Radiation Oncology. It would avoid the need for most patients to make costly, time-consuming and stressful journeys to Liverpool on a regular basis. 

The current system causes needless stress at a time when our health system should be providing those patients with care and support. And it places an undue burden on people who are already suffering from their existing medical condition.

For well over a year, we had understood that progress was being made on this arrangement. Contract negotiations broke down, however, when the Bowral and District Hospital’s priorities were reviewed. Haematology was not rated high enough on their list for the service to be funded and so uninsured patients still have to get to Liverpool, no matter what hardship this causes. Our committee continues to believe that it must be possible for the management of Bowral Hospital to see that better outcomes for those patients can be achieved.

Latest update, April 2016 : Bad news 

We have now learned that, unfortunately, the negotiations to have local uninsured patients treated locally have not been successful. We had been very hopeful that a contract would be finalised to allow the Southern Highlands Private Hospital to provide treatment to uninsured haematology patients for a fee. Bowral and District Hospital, however, have placed a low priority on this medical service and the year-long negotiations have broken down.

This takes us back to square 1. So we will again take up the same issue to achieve a situation where uninsured patients do not have to travel from our district to Liverpool - sometimes two or three times each week - just to receive their essential treatment.

New situation from August 2014 :

Specialist haematology consultation services are now available at Bowral and District Hospital on two days each month. Dr Silvia Ling visits on the 1st Monday of each month and since the beginning of 2015 Dr Minh Hua visits on 2nd Tuesday (replacing Dr Nicole Wong Doo). At the present time a very limited treatment service is also provided.

Referrals can be made via the Haematology Department at Liverpool : telephone 8738 5167; fax 8738 5176.

Please note : the further haematology service previously provided by Dr Peter Presgrave from Wollongong is no longer available to patients from the Southern Highlands (as of August 2013).

Current Haematology Services (as at August 2012)

Haematology services for the South Western Sydney Local Health District, which includes the Southern Highlands area, are now provided at Liverpool Hospital.

All consultations take place at Liverpool. Patients from the Southern Highlands are then treated at Campbelltown, except that all chemotherapy for haematology patients is still being given at Liverpool.

A written referral is required prior to making an appointment to see a haematologist. Patients can be advised on this procedure by their GP.

The service operates from :
Haematology Consulting,
Ground Floor,
Pathology Centre,
Liverpool Hospital,
Corner Campbell & Forbes Streets,
Liverpool NSW 2170.
Telephone : 02 9828 5167
Fax : 02 9828 5176

The postal address is :
Haematology Consulting,
Locked Bag 103,
Liverpool BC 1871

A copy of the advice to GPs on haematology referrals can be downloaded as a Word document

Update November 10, 2011 :

We have news that Dr Samantha Day has been appointed to the position of haematologist for Sydney South West Area Health Service and will commence work on November 21, initially consulting for two days each week at Campbelltown.

Background information on the haematology issue (as at 2011) :

The Committee responded to the withdrawal in 2010 of haematological services from our district by seeking to have the service reinstated. Assistance was sought from Dr Geoff Delaney, the Director of Cancer Services at the Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool.

We learned that the provision of haematology services for our area had been drastically altered in 2010. Associate Professor Lindsay Dunlop, the haematologist who previously visited the Southern Highlands Cancer Centre each fortnight, would no longer be attending here.

This meant that uninsured patients now need to travel to Liverpool for their haematology consultations and reviews, which they could previously receive here in Bowral. Privately insured patients are still able to receive treatment at the Southern Highlands Cancer Centre within the Private Hospital. However, for consultations with Dr Dunlop, they now need to travel to Liverpool as well.

We pointed out that to require haematology patients to travel all the way to Liverpool for treatment is clearly a backward step in health service delivery. It will force them into hours of additional travel as well as extra expense. It will cause needless stress at a time when our health system should be providing them with care and support. It will place an undue burden on people who are already suffering from their existing medical condition.

The Committee sought an urgent reconsideration of this reduction in service and asked that a full haematology service be provided for the Southern Highlands for uninsured and privately insured patients.

Assistance was also sought from Pru Goward MP, Member for Goulburn.

A reply was received, through Ms Goward, from the office of the Minister for Health in the previous government, Carmel Tebbutt, referring to the fact that the Area Health Service was “experiencing a shortage of haematologist specialists”.

This issue will be pursued further with the new government.