Dialysis or die? Patients face dilemma


Steve Murphy leaves home at the crack of dawn to drive the 132kms from Charters Towers to Townsville University Hospital dialysis unit.

This is his life.

Every consecutive day he hits the road with wife Tracey. When he gets there his treatment lasts about five or six hours. Exhausted at the end of the day he makes the 132 km journey back home.

But Steve is one of the lucky ones. His wife Tracey is able to drive him, other sick and tired patients have to get the bus.

"Steve and I have no life beyond his treatment. It's a massive commitment. We are either travelling or preparing to travel the next day. But dialysis is keeping him alive," Tracey said.

"I know a mum with a couple of young kids who has to do the same. It's a terrible thing," she said.

"For us to have dialysis chairs in Charters Towers would be so fabulous for so many. City people would be blown away with what rural people have to do," she said.

Steve and Tracey Murphy have to travel 260kms every second day for Steve to receive dialysis treatment in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Steve and Tracey Murphy have to travel 260kms every second day for Steve to receive dialysis treatment in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Tracey Murphy, from the Charters Towers dialysis support and lobby group, said the situation was dire.

"Three people in Charters Towers have passed away in the last couple of years as they were unable to make the arduous journey to the hospital in Townsville and there are others who are considering the same awful option. Dialysis is not available close to home for many Queenslanders,"

A re-elected Palaszczuk Government has pledged $27.8m to establish 33 additional renal dialysis treatment chairs across rural and regional Queensland, including Charters Towers. Others will be built at Proserpine, Clermont, Charters Towers, Ingham and Longreach hospitals, Cooktown Multipurpose Health Service and Kowanyama Primary Health Care Centre.

KAP state leader Robbie Katter, who has been campaigning for help for desperate dialysis patients, told The Sunday Mail he was pleased with the promise of more dialysis units but said whichever party is in power should have the integrity to follow through with the dialysis plan.

"It's heartbreaking that people are choosing to die as they can't do the exhausting round trip," he said.

Robbie Katter leader of Katter's Australian Party. News Corp/Attila Csaszar
Robbie Katter leader of Katter's Australian Party. News Corp/Attila Csaszar

Patients who come off dialysis often live for only a few weeks.

Labour's election promise of satellite hospitals in areas already in close access to urban medical services has angered rural and regional advocates.

"There is a lot more to Queensland than a 100 km radius around Brisbane. Rural and regional people are having to leave their homes and families, book accommodation and often bus it to Brisbane for regular treatments, surgery or cancer therapies," rural patient advocate in the city Justine Christersen said.

Ms Christersen picks up patients travelling to the city at the airport and makes them healthy meals to make their trip more bearable.

A re-elected Palaszczuk Government has pledged an investment of $265m to deliver seven satellite hospitals in Redlands, Brisbane Southside (near QEII Hospital), Pine Rivers (Petrie / Strathpine area), Gold Coast, Ipswich, Caboolture and Bribie Island.

"Country Queenslanders are being left out. The Government already pays out an estimated $100m a year for thousands of patients to travel at least a minimum of 50kms from their local hospital. The subsidy covers airfares/train/bus or petrol reimbursement depending on destination. Patients may travel thousands of kilometres for a 15 minute appointment, for an MRI or even for a change of a child's stoma," she said.

LNP Leader Deb Frecklington has slammed Labour's choice of satellite hospital sites.

"Queenslanders deserve a world-class health system no matter where they live, but Labor has clearly turned their back on the bush," she said.


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Originally published as Dialysis or die? Patients face dilemma