Bad governments don’t just “waste millions of dollars” — mismanagement kills.
We live in one of the richest nations on Earth. But waiting times for one type of cancer treatment in Australia have blown out to the point where 2,500 people are dying every year. Why do we have money to waste on fruitless efforts to change the weather?
NEARLY 2500 cancer patients are dying prematurely each year due to poor provision of radiation therapy services, experts have estimated — with many more waiting far longer for the life-saving treatment than clinically recommended.
Graeme Morgan, former director of radiation oncology at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, said it appeared state governments were attempting to give preference to other treatments such as chemotherapy due to the high upfront costs of installing the linear accelerator machines required to deliver radiation treatments.
Yet he said the result was that nationally, 15,600 Australian cancer patients were missing out on radiation therapy each year, and 2500 dying early — figures he described as “a disgrace”.
Thirty percent of one cancer patient group was missing out on starting radiation therapy within six weeks (ideally, it ought to be within 4 weeks):
“If you don’t treat patients in the recommended time, there’s maybe a 1 per cent drop in their likely survival for every two to three days that they miss out” beyond the recommended limit, Professor Morgan said.
What if we just said “No” to any more solar subsidies, or windfarm waste, and instead spent that money reducing waiting times and increasing lifespans?
Alan Moran of the IPA estimated that the 20% renewable energy scheme loaded a deadweight loss of 1.8 billion a year on the Australian economy [2009 IPA report]. That’s $6 billion spent from 2009 to now that could have been used to buy medical equipment and pay specialists (not to mention the money left over). How many lives did it cost us to make a symbolic statement on about “renewables” which achieved nothing for the environment. Where are our priorities?
Would our lives be improved more by spending $60 billion on a fibre optic network (cost: about $5,000+ per Australian household), or by installing enough linear accelerator machines and MRI’s so that patients have the peace of mind and possibly years of life to boot? I expect there would be some change too, like possibly enough to fund 50 years worth of medical research or so (oi!).
Our annual medical research budget is just $800 million.
So what does a linear accelerator (or an MRI) cost?
Let’s say a Linear Accelerator costs $10 million (we’ll go deluxe), and the whole nation needs 100 of them (more than enough). That’s a mere billion dollars, which we as a nation spent from 2000 -2010 on solar panels that produce less than 0.1% of our electricity.
If the government took less of our earnings in tax and let people drive our medical industry by paying for medical services as they choose, who imagines that industry would have left such a gaping hole, or made such a spectacularly poor choice to get “value” for money?
PS: Can someone find a good estimate of the costs of Linear Accelerators and MRI machines? It would be good to start suggesting useful ballpark costed policies to our politicians.
I feel passionate about the potential good we can achieve with medical research and wrote more about it here in The Australian in May 2011. On climate change, the wrong choice kills people either way
UPDATE: Tonyfrom Oz adds some useful info in #35.
“The Government recently sunk more than $1 Billion into two Solar power projects, one in Chinchilla, and the second in Moree. There was also half funding for a Wind project (well, another one of them anyway)”. Tony points out that hospitals couldn’t run on a renewable future, because they need to be operational more than 6 hours a day.