Dr Begbie talks about the Hastings Cancer Trust

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Please tell us about your position with the Oncology unit in Port Macquarie …

When I moved to Port Macquarie 15 years ago, I was the only Medical Oncologist between Newcastle and the Gold Coast. The Cancer Centre was pretty basic in those days, but over the years Port Macquarie has developed a high quality cancer service at the North Coast Cancer Institute that provides everything from complex diagnosis, the full range of treatments, and even cancer research and medical education.

Port Macquarie has grown enormously over the same period of time, and I have enjoyed being part of that process. It has been particularly exciting to see the recent funding announcement for the hospital upgrades at PMBH and Kempsey Hospital, and it will be great to see them built and operational.

We are fortunate to live in a great part of the world, and my family have loved becoming part of the community.

What is your association with the Hastings Cancer Trust, and why did you become involved?

Eight years ago, I saw a need to connect the community with cancer services at a local level, and drew together a number of local people to found the Hastings Cancer Trust.

The Hastings-Macleay has a great story to tell with its medical services, and it is always good to see a community buy into that story. The Trust has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of cancer care in our region and remains an important tool to see health care provided close to where people live.

For those who aren’t aware of the Trust, what are its aims?

The Trust’s Mission is: The Hastings Cancer Trust is operated by volunteers who seek to deliver long term community support to local organisations and institutions to pursue excellence in the field of local cancer management.

How is the trust structured, and who are some of the other individuals involved with the organisation? 

The Trustees are: Dr Brenda Campbell, Magistrate Wayne Evans, Solicitor Brett Gilbert, Accountant Shane Ryan, General Manager of Port News Janine Buesnel, and myself. Rob Oakeshott MP and Leslie Williams MP are Patrons of the Trust. Betty Allman is the Chair of the Fundraising Committee, and Denise Eastabrook is Co-ordinator.

The Fundraising Committee develops ideas for fundraising and delivers practical results from those ideas. A committee of fundraisers has been built to assist Betty.

The Co-ordinator bridges two arms of the Trust, by co-ordinating meetings and working to promote the work of the Trust.

The Trust will raise funds from fundraising activities, bequests by the public, donations from corporate entities and Grants from government, corporate, and the private sector.

Funding decisions are made by the Trustees, and priority will be given to local providers of cancer services for which there is a lack of government funding. Funding is not ongoing and is granted annually for education, research, patient comfort, equipment and big ticket items for which government funding is not available.

What is the fundraiser the Hastings Cancer Trust has planned for July 21? 

The fundraiser is the 8th annual Gala Dinner to be held at Panthers on 21 July. Entertainment will be provided by Todd Hardy’s Jazz Band The Moods, with vocalist Anita Spring.

What are the Trustees hoping the outcome of the fundraiser will be?

The goals of the night are for people to eat, drink and have a great time with a table of their friends and work colleagues, while raising money for a local cause. The more money we raise, the more opportunities we will be able to fund.

How will funds raised be used to benefit the people of the Hastings area? 

The following is a list of some of the funding allocation highlights over the life of the Trust:

Community: support for Rotary Lodge; Dragons Abreast; and Look Good, Feel Better Program; start up funds for a pastoral care worker for cancer patients.

Diagnostics Services: Bronchoscope and Pleuroscope for diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer and its complications; bladder scanners for assessment of prostate and bladder disorders.

Cancer Surgery: Gamma Probe for improving quality of breast cancer surgery; vital liver surgery equipment, without which liver surgery would not have started in Port Macquarie; ultrasound for anaesthetic placement of intravenous lines; patient controlled analgesia machines for post-op pain relief.

North Coast Cancer Institute: funds to support patients’ every day needs with fuel cards, accommodation and nutritional supplements; education for cancer nurses, junior doctors and allied health staff; music systems and televisions to entertain patients during therapy; vital signs machines to monitor unwell patients.

Research: computer equipment to assist in the accuracy of tumour measurement for ground breaking trials; freezer for storage of trial materials. Palliative Care: quality of life enhancing equipment for patients in Macleay and Hastings regions; includes hospital beds, specialised chairs, oxygen concentrators and syringe drivers for pain relief.

Rehabilitation: funding for an exercise physiology program to hasten the recovery of cancer survivors; genetic counselling education for patients with a family history of cancer.

More than $600,000 has been donated to small and big projects over the 8 year life of the Trust. We expect to provide similar services and equipment during the next financial year.

In your view, what are some of the things/services needed most in the Port Macquarie-Hastings area for cancer patients and their families – and how can we work together to supply these services?

We are fortunate to have a health system that provides funding for basic cancer services. However, sometimes those who work at the coalface are able to see ways in which the cancer journey for patients and their carers can be made better. Every year we call for those who know the needs to nominate projects, and on average we would fund $80-100,000 per year in projects.

The Trust exists to connect generous people within our community to those needs.

Where can people find out more details about the fundraiser?

For tickets and information, phone Betty Allman on 6584 6937 or 0427 846 937. Tickets cost $85.

Final words …

The success of a community can be judged by how it deals with those less fortunate within it. Cancer can impact on individuals and families in in many ways. The Hastings Cancer Trust is one way in which our region can stand up and show its support for those doing it tough.

Thanks Dr Begbie.

Intreview by Jo Atkins.

This story was published in issue 80 Greater Port Macquarie Focus
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