Cancer funding coup

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on September 13, 2018

IN A game changer for the Great Southern, cancer patients could receive radiotherapy as soon as June next year at Albany Health Campus, with Federal funding secured for the project that State officials had said would not be in the pipeline until at least 2024.

Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson exclusively told The Weekender this week that $6.6 million had been locked in through the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants Scheme.

The funds will assist the purchase of a linear accelerator, a CT simulator and a CT interfacing planning and computer system for three workstations.

As recently as March, the WA Country Health Service confirmed a radiation oncology treatment facility would not be planned for the Great Southern until at least 2024.

Weekender readers may recall that Denmark resident Mary Williams began a campaign two years ago to raise money for a cancer radiation machine (‘Cancer machine resolve’, 19 October, 2017).

Ms Williams had decided “enough was enough” for cancer patients that were forced to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment.

She organised a radiothon, fundraisers and road-side signs throughout the Great Southern to raise awareness and money for radiotherapy equipment.

“Families are split, businesses are affected, and this shows how desperately we are in need of a radiation machine,” she said in October.

“I will make sure this happens.”

In confirming the funding, Mr Wilson thanked Ms Williams for her efforts, saying she had been “pivotal” in disseminating information and raising funds for the “much needed” radiation facility.

“While Mary has very much understated her role, she has been involved in fundraisers, including everything from sausage sizzles to a 24-hour radiothon,” he said.

Mr Wilson said Albany, with a catchment population of more than 60,000 people, was the largest area in WA where cancer patients did not have access to local radiation oncology services.

He said despite having oncology specialists working in the Great Southern, travel was still an issue for many families facing a cancer battle and hence emphasised the importance of having a radiotherapy facility close to home.

“While we are fortunate to have many dedicated specialists working in the Great Southern, I often encounter constituents who need to travel long distances and endure protracted separation from their families to receive the therapy they require,” he said.

“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 transport.

“Many patients who would benefit from radiotherapy opt for other treatments or choose no treatment at all.”