More than 2500 cancer diagnoses missed in Victoria during pandemic curbs

While the true extent of the thousands of missed cancer diagnoses is not yet unknown, concerns are mounting that the delays in diagnoses will hinder the prospects of patients diagnosed with more aggressive cancers and could lead to avoidable deaths.


Professor Evans foreshadowed a potential cancer spike in the next six to 12 months, fuelled by a surge in later-stage cancers being diagnosed, increasing demand on the healthcare system.

“Our modelling indicates that it’s possible that approximately 2500 Victorians will not only be
faced with the prospect of being diagnosed with cancer, but with a later stage cancer than they possibly may have been, and this would be devastating for patients, families and loved ones,” Professor Evans said.

The study found the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in a decline of up to 30 per cent in life-saving cancer diagnostic procedures, compared with the same period in 2019.

The most significant decrease in diagnoses occurred for head and neck, prostate and breast cancer and melanoma, Professor Evans said.

Those identified by researchers as being most a risk or having their cancer diagnosis missed were older Victorians, men and people living in higher socio-economic areas. Reduction in cancer diagnosis was greatest between April and May last year.

The study found the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in a decline of up to 30 per cent in life-saving cancer diagnostic procedures, compared with the same period in 2019.Credit:Louie Douvis

Grant McArthur, of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, said the highest number of delayed diagnoses had been found in prostate cancer, where more than 1000 cases were missed.

“We’re worried about that because of the sheer numbers,” Professor McArthur said.

But he said he was increasingly concerned about people who had undiagnosed head and neck cancers, which often required complicated treatment and were more aggressive than other cancers.

”On the other extreme is head and neck cancer, where the numbers are not as high as prostate cancer, but they require really intensive treatments,” he said. “It involves surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and is quite a difficult treatment for many patients, and this could be even more challenging for those patients because of the delays in the diagnosis.”

Professor McArthur said he was bracing for an influx of cancer patients in the next six to 12 months.

“This is still very significant, we think, in a Victorian healthcare setting, and there will be additional demand on the health system as a result.“

He said doctors were also preparing to see more advanced melanomas after people had delayed their skin checks during the pandemic.

The findings of the statewide study follow a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare late last year on the impact of the pandemic on national screening tests, which found there had been a worrying decline in screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancers.

It found just 1100 mammograms were performed nationally in April, compared with 70,000 the month before – a drop of 98 per cent – as COVID-19 infections soared and restrictions to contain the virus were enforced.

There was a 30 per cent drop in mammograms nationally from January to June. About 344,000 tests were conducted, compared with about 489,000 in the same period two years before.

About 364,000 cervical cancer tests were undertaken between January and June last year, compared with almost 807,000 for the period in 2019, a drop of 45 per cent.

There were about 145,000 fewer bowel screening tests completed between January and June last year. About 680,000 were returned, compared with just under 825,000 for the first half of the previous year.

The AIHW researchers found mammogram screenings in Australia picked up again in June, with about 70,000 tests conducted that month, but this was still 10,000 fewer per month than in 2018.

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Queensland finally gets a coronavirus tracing app to replace ‘onerous’ old system

The Queensland government is rolling out a new coronavirus app to make it easier for the state’s hospitality sector to keep track of their customers for contact tracing.

The Check In Qld app was launched on Sunday by the Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Yvette D’Ath, at a pub south of Brisbane.

“This is going to make contact tracing quicker and easier for Queensland Health, which means if we were to get local transmission of COVID in our community we can identify it, we can trace it and contain COVID-19,” said Ms D’Ath.

Users will be able to sign in at certain venues by scanning a QR code — but only at places that are participating in the program.

Participation is not mandatory, and it has only been tested in the hospitality industry, but other businesses can use it, too.

“The app will contain [users’] contact details so they will not have to constantly keep putting their contact details in every time they go to a venue,” Ms D’Ath said.

Until now, the state’s contact tracers have been relying on a patchwork of tools used by venues to comply with COVID-19 regulations to keep an electronic record of their customers.

Doug Meagher, manager of the Orion Hotel in Springfield, where the new app was launched, said the old method was convoluted and onerous.

“We had Excel spreadsheets that we then had to electronically send them to Queensland Health,” said Mr Meagher said.

“We had to retain the data for 28 to 56 days, we then had QR codes where you were sent different codes … it was onerous.”

Health minister Yvette D'Ath launches the Check In Qld app
Health minister Yvette D’Ath says the app will make life easier for the hospitality industry and contact tracers.(ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)

Information deleted after 56 days

New South Wales, Victoria and the Australia Capital Territory launched similar apps in the latter half of 2020.

Ms D’Ath said the Queensland government wanted to assess what was already available and working before committing to its own app.

Queensland based its app on the ACT model, Check In CBR, which launched in September.

Testing and trials of Queensland’s Check In app began in January at selected venues from Cairns to Ipswich.

More than 200 businesses took part in the trial and are now using the new app, the government said.

Ms D’Ath said Queenslanders should have confidence their data will be secure.

“We are collecting the least amount of information, and only the information we need in relation to contact tracing,” the minister said.

Information gathered on the app will be only used by authorised health officials and will be deleted after 56 days.

“Ours only collects the information that is absolutely essential, and of course we’re only keeping it for 30 to 56 days,” Ms D’Ath said.

Nurse receives coronavirus vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines have started rolling out in Queensland, but the app should help the government to contact-trace future cases.

No new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Queensland on Sunday, though there are 11 active cases in the state.

More than 5,200 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, according to Queensland Health.

Vaccinations started rolling out last week on the Gold Coast, and so far around 2,030 Queenslanders have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

In coming days, more locations will be added to the rollout.

“We have our other three hubs going online this week. The RBWH, the Townsville University Hospital and the Sunshine Coast University Hospital,” Ms D’Ath said.

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Preschool play leads to school success

“It makes a big difference and the gains made continue into school and beyond; we know it works and that they hit the ground running,” she said.

Professor Fleer said the more formal setting of school presented challenges for children who couldn’t regulate their behaviour.

“They want to be like every other child listening and sitting still et cetera, but if they have to focus on that they can’t focus on the curriculum, there’s no space left,” she said.

“You can see the school failure happening over time because students are so focused on behaviour instead of the joy of learning.”

The Playworlds model was developed with early childhood educators to make it easy for them to do in their classrooms. The reliance on imagination and lack of props or expensive resources also make it accessible regardless of a preschool’s socioeconomic status.

The success of such early learning further strengthens the case for universal free childcare, Professor Fleer said.

“What’s the best way to invest in the future? It’s invest in infants, invest in toddlers, invest in preschoolers,” she said.

“The long-standing research is out there. We know that investing in early childcare matters.”

Calls for universal free childcare are mounting as Australia begins to repair the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Billionaire philanthropist Nicola Forrest and Thrive by Five chief executive Jay Weatherill addressed the National Press Club this month to push for an overhaul of the childcare system.

“High-quality early learning centres should be a basic human right for every single Australian kid, no matter their postcode and regardless of whether both or neither parent works. It’s about uniformity, consistency and equality of access,” Ms Forrest said.

Helen Gibbons, director of early education and care for the United Workers Union, said she was pleased to see increasing momentum to change the system to improve things for children, their families and educators.

“A lot of voices are coming together now,” she said. “We need to be opening up barriers for children to access high-quality environments.”

Ms Gibbons said the government needed not only to make childcare more financially accessible for families but also improve the structural issues faced by staff, such as low pay and insecure work.

“The COVID-19 crisis really highlighted what an enormous crisis there was in the early education workforce,” she said. “It showed us the government can do direct intervention when it wants to.”

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Man stabbed at popular St Kilda cafe

Police were called to Staple Providore & Cafe on Fitzroy St about 10am on Sunday morning following reports of “an altercation”. “A man received multiple stab wounds to the upper body and was transported to hospital with serious injuries,” a police spokeswoman said. A 42-year-old St Kilda man was arrested at the scene and is currently assisting police with their inquiries.— Do you know more? Email believe the parties involved are known to each other.It is not known what provoked the violent altercation. At least four police cars and two ambulances attended the scene. The cafe has been cordoned off as police comb the scene for evidence. The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone who witnessed the incident or with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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'I froze my eggs' when I decided to transition from female to male

Nate attended the Queensland Children's Hospital's transgender clinic which has seen an increase in patients. The latest available data shows that in …

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Heavy rain and flood risk warning

Meteorologists are closely watching a low-pressure system stalking the North Queensland coast, having issued a flood warning with the potential for a tropical cyclone to “spin up quite rapidly”.

A flood watch warning is currently in place between Mission Beach and Rollingstone to the north of Townsville with an unpredictable weather system threatening to bring damaging wind and rain in the coming days, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

“In the northwest Coral Sea a tropical low that’s embedded in the monsoon trough is currently sitting pretty far offshore and to the north with the potential for cyclone development, particularly as we come through the early days of next week,” meteorologist Kimba Wong told NCA NewsWire on Saturday morning.

“Its proximity to land will very much be a determining factor in how quickly it might develop and exactly where it might be, so there’s uncertainty in the position and the movement.”

Ms Wong said the cyclone could develop by Tuesday and urged residents to keep an eye out for warnings in the coming days.

“Of course, we’re in cyclone season and once these tropical lows form they can spin up quite rapidly,” she said.

“So it’s a good idea to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings.”

The unpredictability of the weather system creates an element of significant risk, but Ms Wong said the current trajectory suggested it would remain offshore above the Coral Sea.

“Modelling guidance suggests it may linger off the northeast coast of Queensland for a couple of days before moving off to the southeast,” the meteorologist said.

“If it does form up into a cyclone it looks like it will most likely stay offshore, but of course that may change because there is an element of uncertainty there.

“What that means for Townsville is if that system comes closer to the coast, it could bring quite significant rainfall to the region but if it does remain just a little bit further offshore it may lead to offshore winds and very much reduced rainfall.”

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Police confirm 317 schoolgirls kidnapped in night-time raid in Nigeria

“Sadly, this is only the latest in a series of abductions in the region. Over the past months, hundreds of children in Nigeria have gone through the trauma of being abducted by armed groups,” it said in a statement. Initial estimates had placed the number of abducted girls at 300.

“Two of my daughters aged 10 and 13 are among the about 300 girls the school authorities told us are missing,” parent Nasiru Abdullahi told DPA via telephone.

The sign post of Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe, following an attack by gunmen.Credit:AP

Over the course of several hours from 1am, the gunmen invaded the school, “gathered the girls together and marched them into the forest,” Jangebe resident Musa Mustapha said.

The armed group also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, located about 200 meters from the school, said Mustapha, adding that the gunmen had operated in two groups, with one ambushing the army and the other invading the school.

Police in Zamfara state launched a search-and-rescue operations with the army to find the “armed bandits”.

“There’s information that they were moved to a neighbouring forest, and we are tracing and exercising caution and care,” Zamfara police commissioner Abutu Yaro said.

Zamfara’s information commissioner, Sulaiman Tanau Anka, said the assailants stormed in firing sporadically during the 1am raid.

“Information available to me said they came with vehicles and moved the students, they also moved some on foot,” he said.

School kidnappings were first carried out by jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province but the tactic has now been adopted by other militants in the north-west whose agenda is unclear.

They have become endemic around the increasingly lawless north, to the anguish of families and frustration of Nigeria’s government and armed forces. This was the third such incident since December.

The rise in abductions is fuelled in part by sizeable government pay-offs in exchange for child hostages, catalysing a broader breakdown of security in the north, officials have said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The government denies making such payouts.

Rage and frustration

Jangebe town seethed with anger over the abduction, said a government official who was part of the delegation to the community.

Young men hurled rocks at journalists driving through the town, injuring a cameraman, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The situation at Jangebe community is tense as people mobilised to block security operatives, journalists and government officials from getting access to the main town,” he said.

Nigerian soldiers drive past a secondary school in Kankara, Nigeria, in December. Rebels have abducted hundreds of school children in several attacks Nigeria.

Nigerian soldiers drive past a secondary school in Kankara, Nigeria, in December. Rebels have abducted hundreds of school children in several attacks Nigeria.Credit:AP

Parents also had no faith in authorities to return their kidnapped girls, said Mohammed Usman Jangebe, the father of one abductee.

“We are going to rescue our children, since the government isn’t ready to give them protection,” he said.

“All of us that have had our children abducted have agreed to follow them into to the forest. We will not listen to anyone now until we rescue our children,” Jangebe said, before ending the call.


Military shake-up

President Muhammadu Buhari replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this month amid the worsening violence.

Last week, unidentified gunmen kidnapped 42 people including 27 students, and killed one pupil, in an overnight attack on a boarding school in the north-central state of Niger. The hostages are yet to be released.

In December, dozens of gunmen abducted 344 schoolboys from the town of Kankara in north-west Katsina state. They were freed after six days but the government denied a ransom had been paid.


Islamic State’s West Africa branch in 2018 kidnapped more than 100 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi in north-east Nigeria, all but one of whom – the only Christian – were released. A ransom was paid, according to the United Nations.

Perhaps the most notorious kidnapping in recent years was when Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in April 2014. The incident drew widespread global attention.

Many have been found or rescued by the army, or freed in negotiations between the government and Boko Haram, also for a hefty ransom, according to sources.

But 100 are still missing, either remaining with Boko Haram or dead, security officials say.


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Fight to save century-old Queensland saleyard continues despite being added to heritage register

The fight to save a century-old saleyard south of Brisbane from redevelopment isn’t over, despite locals winning a battle for it to be heritage listed.

The Beaudesert Pig and Calf saleyard has been a meeting place for locals in the Scenic Rim since 1905 — the fortnightly event acting as more than a sale but a focal point for the community.

The saleyard was due to be demolished last year, as the space is included in the Scenic Rim Regional Council’s $8 million town redevelopment plans.

Those who attend the sales say the area’s rural culture and heritage will be lost if it is demolished, as urban development encroaches on the town just an hour outside of Brisbane.

A group of locals petitioned to save the saleyard, successfully getting it added to Queensland’s heritage register, but the council is set to appeal the listing in the Queensland Environment and Planning Court.

The exterior of the saleyard, which was built in 1905.(Supplied: Department of Environment and Science)

‘An icon that needs to be kept’

Peter Hayes is the operator of the Beaudesert Pig and Calf Saleyard and has been running sales there for about 30 years.

“I don’t think they’re listening to the people … if it changes, well it’s got to change, but I don’t think that’s what the people want,” Mr Hayes said.

“The local people were very excited and very happy the thing was going to be kept and restored.

Olivia Gilroy attended this week’s sale with her neighbour and said the saleyards were important for the elderly people living in the area.

“People look forward to it, it’s every two weeks, it’s on the calendar, it’s more than a sale, it’s a social thing, it’s a mental thing,” Ms Gilroy said.

A man in a hat talks into a microphone.
Beaudesert saleyard operator Peter Hayes has been working at the saleyard for three decades.(ABC News: Rachel McGhee)

Council to continue with appeal

Despite being one of the last of its kind, the Scenic Rim Regional Council is going ahead with plans to appeal the heritage listing.

To win, it must prove the saleyard does not meet the heritage criteria.

Beaudesert Pig and Calf Saleyard.
Council is opposing the heritage listing.(Supplied: Department of Environment and Science)

Cliff Kroesen was the applicant on behalf of the community who put the saleyard case forward to the Queensland Heritage Council.

“For council to successfully appeal, they would need to satisfy the Planning and Environment Court that the saleyards do not have a strong or special association with the Beaudesert Farming Community,” he said.

“Given the extremely strong social connection that the saleyards have and the current focus on the mental wellbeing of primary producers, it would be quite difficult to mount any sort of convincing argument that the saleyards did not satisfy [the] criteria.”

‘Saleyard not safe’

Mayor Greg Christensen said parallel to the appeal, recent engineering reports found the site’s safety standards aren’t up to scratch.

He said an unintended consequence of the heritage listing could mean the end of operations at the saleyard.

“Very often a heritage-listed building cannot have any modification whatsoever because it adjusts the character of the building,” he said.

“Our initial engineering shows that in its current state, this building is not safe, or suitable, for ongoing use with livestock because it fails basic engineering needs, environmental needs and animal welfare needs.

“They’re pretty key issues for us as a region to meet our legal responsibility.”

Cr Christensen said he recognised the importance of the town’s rich rural culture and always planned to pay tribute to that through a memorial site in the town’s new development.

“We believe all of those aspects are important to carry forward and celebrate into the future, we just want to be able to do that in a way that is sustainable and legal in terms of how we have to manage the facility.”

He said if the sales can’t continue at the current site in future, they can be held at another location.

“We do have other operators who have expressed interest in providing that opportunity if it can’t continue in it’s current location.”

The significance of Beaudesert’s Pig and Calf Saleyard is outlined on the Queensland Heritage Register.

It said the saleyard is important surviving evidence of the region’s dairy and pig producing industries, which was one of the most prominent in Queensland in the 20th century.

From over 100 towns which reported holding regular pig and calf sales, purpose-built 20th century pig and calf saleyards are documented at 40 towns, and only nine are known to remain throughout the state.

Two sheep in a pen.
Sheep at the Beaudesert saleyard in Queensland’s Scenic Rim in February 25, 2021.(ABC News: Rachel McGhee)

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Marine park authority wades into Keswick Island concerns

A natural resource regulator says it is working with the State Government to address reports of environmental damage on Keswick Island.

It comes after Dawson MP George Christensen spoke on the matter in parliament, saying he had arranged a meeting between Keswick Island Progress Association members and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority last Friday.

The reports of environmental damage raised include claims a turtle nest was destroyed because of beach grading, land clearing to make way for a new boat and trailer parking area and coral “smothered in sediment”.

Mr Christensen said authority staff had agreed to reach out to the State Government to ask for the reports to be investigated and that it would look into the reports as well.

Keswick Island resident and turtle advocate Rayna Asbury took this photograph of turtle tracks at Basil Bay on December 26, 2020. Picture: Contributed

The Dawson MP again called for the State Government to terminate China Bloom’s head lease on Keswick Island.

“GBRMPA told us that the right authority to police (Keswick Island) was the State Government,” Mr Christensen said.

“However, GBRMPA were concerned enough about the reports and the material they saw that they’re going to write to the State Government asking for the matter to be investigated and they also said they would have their investigation team look over it in case there were any breaches.”

The Daily Mercury put these comments to the authority, with a spokeswoman confirming it had recently met with concerned residents from Keswick Island.

“We are in contact with the lease holder, through our permitting process, to understand all their facilities located within the marine park,” A GBRMPA spokeswoman said.

“Where marine park issues cover both Commonwealth and Queensland jurisdictions we work jointly with the

Queensland Government.

“We are doing so in this instance.”

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Great Barrier Reef being used as a toilet

China Bloom has previously said, as the latest head lessor, it was working through “inherited issues” on Keswick Island.

“China Bloom is working productively with the council on ensuring all inherit works are compliant,” it said.

Footage of what resident James Asbury describes as damaged coral near a Keswick Island boat ramp. Picture: James Asbury

Footage of what resident James Asbury describes as damaged coral near a Keswick Island boat ramp. Picture: James Asbury

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