Kyogle area resident Scott Harlum.
Kyogle area resident Scott Harlum.

'CRUEL': Transplant candidate refused medical support in QLD

Update 4.30pm: A Queensland Health spokesperson said no patient will be denied medical care, "no matter which side of the border they reside".

"In cases where patients cannot attend our health facilities because of border restrictions, we are making arrangements to ensure they receive the care they need.

"This includes holding virtual consultations, working with NSW or border community hospitals to perform surgery and making appropriate quarantine arrangements in Queensland."

The spokesperson did not comment on the Queensland Government cancelling the cross-border arrangement that enabled organ transplant patients from Northern NSW access to transplant services in Brisbane.


Original story: NORTHERN NSW residents waiting for an organ transplant will not be able to have lifesaving surgery in Queensland hospitals and will have to be transferred to Sydney instead, minimising their chances of success.

Kyogle area resident Scott Harlum is waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant.

Mr Harlum said he was advised this week by a local medical team that the Queensland Kidney Transplant Service, operating out of the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, was unable to offer services to Northern NSW residents from Tuesday.

"Now the burden falls on patients to try and put in place a plan for their possible surgery and an extended stay, of three months or more, 800km from home."

"A transplant organ can stay viable on ice for up to 24 hours, the questions now is whether I can make it there on time if I get a call at 2am that a viable organ has been found, and with limited flights to Sydney, this does not help my levels of anxiety about this issue."

Mr Harlum said this marked the end of a longstanding cross-border arrangement which enabled organ transplant patients from Northern NSW access to transplant services in Brisbane.

"The transplant program in Brisbane was suspended in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic which we accepted as unfortunate but necessary given the uncertainty whether Australia would suffer a large-scale outbreak," he said.

"This, announced without notice and with the transplant program in Brisbane back, and up and running, is unnecessary and cruel.

"There is no medical justification for not allowing transplant patients to be treated as near as possible to their home, for the dislocation from their social and family supports, for the added expense to the health system and to the patient personally of travel and accommodation in Sydney, and certainly not for the extended period a donor organ will need to be stored before the transplant surgery can take place."

Mr Harlum, who is a former Northern Star reporter, said Northern NSW Local Health District staff were forced to scramble to register patients with the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital transplant service in Camperdown, Sydney.

"Medical staff there helped ensure Northern NSW patients were not left in limbo and without hope of their 'gift of life'," he said.

The Northern NSW Local Health District and Queensland Health have been contacted for comment.