07 January 2022

Anne Savage
PCFA Chief Executive Officer

As I write, the pandemic is dealing a punishing blow to our political credibility, with thousands of lives in jeopardy because of service bottlenecking and delays.

Public health messaging has gone awry.

Hospitals are struggling to cope with the impacts of unclear and inconsistent health orders, and our wellbeing cannot be guaranteed in a system straining to cope under unprecedented pressure.

Many will have their health compromised by the side-effects of system chaos, where critical care has been delayed, elective surgeries are being cancelled, and routine treatment is grinding to a halt.

Men impacted by prostate cancer are one of the largest patient groups affected.

230,000 Australian men are alive today after a diagnosis, and around 18,000 will be diagnosed this year, if the health system can be restored to normal.

Right now, those with suspected prostate cancers have had their biopsy procedures cancelled, with clinical consequences that could shorten their lives.

Many others have been given a diagnosis by phone, without support to cope with the shock and distress.

Men who need post-surgery care are being turned away from hospitals, increasing risks of complications and infections.

And those with advanced disease have had their treatment suspended, losing hope in a system now overrun by COVID.

In Victoria alone, prostate cancer diagnoses fell by 13 per cent in 2020, a figure that reflects tragically on the unintended consequences of lockdown, meaning more cancers are likely to be detected at a later stage in future years, with increased lethality.

Nationally rates of PSA testing have dropped by about 10 per cent, equivalent to 52,471 tests.

At the policy level, priorities have also been scrambled. An urgent review of the Clinical Guidelines for PSA Testing has been held up as funding uncertainty hinders government support.

So too on the frontlines. Health workers are frustrated and exhausted by what must feel like an unrelenting bombardment and a residual, recurring sense of shellshock.

If we have learned anything from this crisis, it is that leadership matters.

And one thing is especially clear – never before has it been so important for our leaders to communicate with clarity, consistency, and compassion.

In a Federal Election year, we can only hope our nation’s current and future leaders will set politics aside and support one another so our health system, and our families, can prevail and prosper.

The challenge for our political leaders is a simple one – get the message straight.

Australian men and families facing prostate cancer are urged to call Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s Telenursing Service on 1800 22 00 99.