Albany to get gold seal radiation service
Cancer touches the lives of so many people, young and old.
I am blessed to have a family untouched by cancer, from my 92 year-old mother who still enjoys great health, right down to my four beautiful children.
But not everyone is so lucky…
While O’Connor is fortunate to have many dedicated specialists working in the regions…I often encounter constituents who need to travel long distances… and endure protracted separations from their families to receive the therapies they require.
For many, the stress of temporarily relocating to Perth, is compounded by the financial burden of these potentially life-saving treatments… in addition to the cost of travel and accommodation.
A recent study by the University of WA suggests nearly every single rural cancer patient experienced considerable out-of-pocket expenses undergoing potentially life-saving treatments.
This survey found rural patients had paid out-of-pocket expenses of around $2100 per person…with the cost of accommodation making up for around 12 per cent and fuel around eight per cent.
I recognise we cannot have comprehensive cancer care services in every town in O’Connor, but the City of Albany, with a broader catchment of 60,000 PLUS people …represents the largest area outside Perth and Bunbury where patients do not have local access to radiation oncology services.
Great Southern cancer patients who require radiotherapy need to travel for treatment.
With the average length of treatment being 4 weeks, and in some instances as long as seven weeks…This is a long time to be away from home.
Many patients, who would benefit from radiotherapy, opt for other treatments…OR CHOOSE NO TREATMENT AT ALL…such is the burden of travelling when so ill!
Last July, the federal government, through the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grant (ROHPG) scheme approved $6.6M in capital funding to support medical equipment for a radiation oncology service to be located in Albany.
In their letter to grant recipient Genesis Cancer Care, the federal government acknowledged that there was a demonstrated need in the Great Southern Region of O’Connor.
This federal funding will be spent on a linear accelerator… a CT simulator… and a CT-interfacing planning and computer system for up to three workstations.
Mr Speaker, there will be a requirement for top up of this federal funding, to achieve a planned operational date of June 30, 2019.
Currently patients from the Great Southern are funded to undergo treatment in Perth or Bunbury, and they receive state government financial support in the form of the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS).
The opportunity exists to redirect this funding towards providing a gold-standard radiotherapy treatment facility in Albany.
To this end, I have written to the State Minister for Health, Roger Cook, who has responsibility for PATS… and for capital infrastructure funding for public health services in WA.
I have appealed for the State to assist in the prompt installation and operation of this much needed radiotherapy facility.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge key businesses and individuals… many of whose lives have been touched by cancer… and who have made it clear they back this project for their Great Southern community.
I give a special shout out to Mary Williams, who has been pivotal in disseminating information… and raising funds… for this much-needed radiation facility.
Mary has very much under-stated her role, but has been involved in fund-raisers including everything from sausage sizzles to a 24-hour Radiothon.
There are ongoing fundraisers planned including a dinner at the Princess Royal Yacht Club… fundraising at the Street Festival in Denmark… fashion parades in Albany… and quiz nights, dances and street stalls throughout the Great Southern.
Mary has named City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington as a great supporter…along with the Denmark Community Foundation, Denmark CRC, Denmark Medical Centre, IGA, Red Dot, Albany Party Hire, Soroptimists International… and others too numerous to name.
Mary and her team of volunteers have conducted an information campaign including street signage along our regional roads and infomercials in a local medical centre.
Local farmers have lent their eye-catching support by wrapping their silage in multi-coloured covers….creating a colourful patchwork throughout the paddocks of the Great Southern.
This morning I spoke to the Federal Minister for Health, Hon. Greg Hunt, thanking him on behalf of the Great Southern community for his commitment of $6.6M toward this essential project.
Minister Hunt has committed to visiting Albany at the first possible opportunity to meet with cancer sufferers…their families and support networks…and our dedicated regional medical practitioners and specialists.
I thank all who have given generously of their time, money and effort…to support the establishment of a gold-standard radiotherapy service in the Great Southern.
I hope we will…in the very near future…see our cancer patients undergo life-saving treatments close to home… with the support of their family and friends… and the doctors and ancillary health workers they know and trust.