"The day that politicians start to interfere and determine who's on the priority list, welcome back Eddie Obeid": Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Premier Barry O’Farrell has ruled out stepping in to help mother of five Nicole Perko get the life-saving surgery she needs, saying his intervention would be unfair and dangerous.
"The day that politicians start to interfere and determine who’s on the priority list, welcome back Eddie Obeid. It may not be $100 million, Madam Speaker, but you can imagine the Labor mates lining up for operations ahead of general [patients] across the state," Mr O’Farrell said.
More than 50,000 people have signed an online petitition asking the Health Minister Jillian Skinner to intervene in Ms Perko’s case.
Waiting game: Nicole Perko. Photo: Supplied
She is waiting for complex and rarely performed peritonectomy surgery and has been told that without it, she will die.
The Premier said the idea of bypassing hospital administrators to direct them to perform one medical procedure over another was fraught with danger.
He said it was up to area health services and individual hospitals to decide how to prioritise patients and allocate their resources.
Backing the campaign: Jennifer Hawkins. Photo: Dylan Robinson
He said Labor had 16 years to improve St George Hospital.
"For them to pretend that the solution is for the minister to direct which operations will occur is absolutely beyond the pale," Mr O'Farrell said.
The Opposition has accused the government of closing ten acute care beds at St George Hospital and called for more money for peritonectomy surgery.
Mr O’Farrell repeated Mrs Skinner’s claims that the hospital budget had increased and the issue was not related to resources, but to the size and capacity of the hospital’s intensive care unit.
"The issue is not resources, the issue is the facilities," Mr O’Farrell said.
"I wish ... that I had a magic wand, that I could overnight remove all the problems in this state, but I can’t build a new hospital overnight." Dubbo High School student Sam McCauley, who has never met Ms Perko, organised a petition to help her get the surgery after learning about her plight on social media.
High-profile Australians including actor Russell Crowe, celebrity Charlotte Dawson, model Jennifer Hawkins and musician Clare Bowditch have also publicly supported the campaign on Twitter.
Mrs Skinner told the NSW Parliament on Tuesday that the peritonectomy procedure was highly complex requiring a lengthy stay in intensive care.
She said she was looking for alternative hospitals to do the surgery.
"I hope to have a response to that in the very near future," she said.
A world expert and pioneer of the procedure, David Morris, had been operating for three days a week at St George, the only place in NSW that performs peritonectomies, but has been forced to cut his operating days to two due to the growing surgery demands across the hospital.
In May, Fairfax revealed St George had told Professor Morris to stop performing operations for a month in order to make sure the hospital met its budget, before backflipping after a public outcry.
However, the number of operations he can perform each month remains limited, and he is unable to treat interstate patients, many of whom cannot access treatment at home.