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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 1358

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - 1 raise a matter which is giving concern to constituents of mine at Muswellbrook and must also be giving concern to people right throughout the country areas of Australia. I refer to the illness of a young lad, 15 years of age, and the great financial problems which are facing his parents. I will not cite his name or the name of his parents but I have them in correspondence. In December 1967, after a brief illness, a young resident of Muswellbrook in my electorate was flown to Sydney and admitted to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children for observation. He was at first in the care of a pediatrician, but later was transferred to a neuro-surgeon, Dr M. Sofer Schreiber. It was at first thought that he was suffering from a subdural haematoma. He was operated on- for this. A large blood clot was removed in this operation and he recovered. However, after a period of convalescence, it was found that the symptoms had returned and after further investigation a malignent tumour in the pineal area of the brain was diagnosed.

At this time he was in hospital for 70 days and had 3 major operations. He has since returned to Camperdown each year for revisions of the ventriculo atrial shunt, and has also had to return frequently for examination and tests. This year he has been in hospital twice in Sydney and is at the moment a patient in the Muswellbrook District Hospital where he has been for 3 weeks. The costs involved in long term illnesses such as this are severe and whilst the hospital charges are covered by the medical benefits fund for accommodation, the extras are not. For example, for a consultation by a specialist surgeon for which he was charged $25, the return by the fund was only $8.50. For a fee of $87 by an anaesthetist, the refund was only $12.80.

The point to be made in this case, however, is that apparently no provision exists whereby taxation deductions can be claimed for the very necessary costs involved in taking a patient to Sydney for this treatment. It is not possible to get this sort of care at any other place except, of course, in other capital cities. It is necessary to take the child by car or train as the local doctor in most cases does not consider the use of any ambulance justified and, as in the main there are numerous conferences with the surgeon, it is not practical for the parent to return home. So he or she requires accommodation adding to the already heavy cost.

I consider that country people are in a very disadvantageous position when confronted with such a situation. Some form of relief should be provided in the tax laws of the cost involved in seeking treatment in such cases. I bring this important matter to the attention of this House and the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), in the hope that he will consider amending the legislation so as to give financial relief to parents who find themselves in such a situation. In this lad's case the position is without much hope. The tumour is inoperable due to its location and no chemical cure appears to be available. The parents of this boy have approached me and asked me to take this matter up with the Government not only on their behalf but also on behalf of many other country parents who are caught in the same situation. This is a very serious problem for these parents who are paying taxes only to find that the costs of this serious illness are taking all their ready money. They are finding it difficult to carry out. I commend this matter for the attention of the Government.

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