The time Robyn Wilson spends travelling to, from and receiving dialysis treatment each week equates to a part-time job.
As a retiree living in Corlette with her husband, in a house they only built four years ago when they moved from Sydney, Robyn wishes she could spend more of that precious time enjoying life by the seaside.
But this is a challenge every dialysis patient on the Tomaree Peninsula faces, as there are currently no treatment options – neither public nor private – in the area.
Patients must travel further afield; for Robyn, that means being driven by her sister or husband to the Newcastle Dialysis Clinic in Hunter Street, Newcastle West, three days a week.
It’s an hour’s drive each way, plus five hours’ treatment time – a process that purifies the blood in place of normal kidney function.
“It’s a really long day for me; when I get home I’m ready for bed,” Robyn tells Newcastle Weekly.
Not-for-profit group Community Transport Port Stephens also runs a community bus pick-up and drop-off service, and takes patients to Raymond Terrace or John Hunter Hospital.
For one couple Robyn knows, the travel became too much and they relocated to Newcastle for easier access to treatment.
In their desperation, Robyn and a group of about eight others have joined the fight with Port Stephens MP Kate Washington to campaign for services closer to home.
Ms Washington has sought a meeting with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to lobby him on the issue.
She says if that fails to gain traction, another option is to start a petition.
“These residents and their families deserve local options,” Ms Washington says.
“Being dependent on dialysis is hard enough without the difficulty of travelling hours and hours, multiple times a week.”
Earlier at the state election, Labor had promised to expand services at Tomaree Community Hospital, including dialysis, but those hopes were dashed when the Liberal government was re-elected.