The decision by the Queensland Government to establish a new Kidney Transplant Unit in Townsville ahead of Cairns has been labelled as “despicable and appalling” by Cairns Mayor Bob Manning.
“We were originally told that Cairns had been slated to get this unit, but then we were told that people from the State Government got involved who were in favour of it being in Townsville – it became political,” Cr Manning said.
“We took up the matter in support of a number of Indigenous councils and communities who indicated they found it hard to take the matter forward.
“As part of that, we did an analysis with clinicians from within the hospital and we were given assurances that the right place for this facility was in Cairns.”
Cr Manning said he was shocked to learn this morning of the decision to establish the kidney unit in Townsville.
“This is possibly the most despicable act I have seen.”
“This decision is despite that clearly the greatest need is in this region – the facts support this.”
- Cairns has the highest number of patients on dialysis in regional Queensland.
- The rate of growth of new patients requiring dialysis in Cairns is twice the national average.
- In 2018/2019, there were 56 transplant referrals from Cairns (one third of these were Indigenous patients).
- In 2019, Cairns patients had nearly triple the transplants than Townsville patients
- Cairns’ catchment is much larger than Townsville and includes the Cape and Torres Strait.
- Cairns Airport allows for quick and easy connectivity, including from PNG, with direct and frequent flights from most locations in Australia.
- The rate of chronic kidney disease among Indigenous Australians is seven times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.
“The Premier has been telling us for more than 18-months that her main concern is to keep Queenslanders safe, that health is her number one priority,” Cr Manning said.
“This decision flies in the face of those comments.
“It is easy for the State to apparently find millions of dollars to bring a footy game to Townsville, but when it comes to safeguarding the health of First Nations Far Northerners and particularly those Indigenous communities in the Cape, there are no funds for a lifesaving kidney plant.”
Cr Manning called on the Premier and the Health Minister to put politics aside and move to establish a second kidney transplant unity at Cairns Hospital as a matter of urgency.
“This to us was never about Cairns versus Townsville, this was always about our Indigenous people and giving them a fair go – and a fair go is for this facility to be in Cairns,” Cr Manning said.
“My question is why are we arguing over one kidney transplant unit? Why should Cairns and Townsville compete for one unit?”
Cr Manning revealed that he, along with other Far Northern mayors, had petitioned the Government several times over the past year on this issue.
“We now know that our pleas have been disregarded and dismissed,” he said.
“We understand that an independent panel was charged with reviewing submissions for the unit, however there is no transparency.
“We know from the facts we have provided to the government that Indigenous communities in the Cape will be mostly affected by this flawed decision and failure of the State Government to provide the medical equipment they need and deserve.”
Recently, a letter co-signed by the mayors of 10 Far Northern councils, was sent to Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath.
In the letter, the mayors pointed to the theme of National Reconciliation Week, ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’ and suggested that this issue may very well be the barometer of how serious the State Government was about closing the gap for Indigenous people.