By Charlotte Wooldridge | posted on July 30, 2020
HEALTH Minister Roger Cook has swung back at his Liberal opponent this week after accusations of Albany’s health care system being “left behind” by the Labor Government.
Promises of a cancer radiation therapy machine for Albany Health Campus stretch back to September 2018, when Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson secured $6.6 million of Federal funding through the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants Scheme.
Despite the financial commitment, WA Country Health Service continually stated such equipment was off the table for Albany until at least 2024.
This changed when $13.1 million of State Government funding intended for the Carnegie wave energy project in Albany was reallocated to help pay for the cancer machine project in March 2019, with an updated timeline for completion of the cancer radiation therapy machine set for the second half of 2022.
While many state projects are being fast-tracked to boost economic growth in WA, Shadow Health Minister Zak Kirkup has accused the Labor Government of unnecessarily stalling the project.
“The proposed radiation and oncology facility has been delayed significantly through what I think is a lack of leadership from the State Government,” Mr Kirkup said.
“What we’ve seen now through the advocacy of Rick Wilson is the Federal Government contribute $6.6 million towards this facility, but the State Government is dragging its heels.
“Albany is being left behind with a facility that should have been built some years ago. We’re seeing it no longer on the cards even being built in this term of government, with it not being finished until mid-2022.
“This is far, far too long.
“We’ve just been to the site, you can go there now and it’s exactly what it was a year or two years ago. The money’s there waiting, the Government just hasn’t acted quick enough on this.”
Health Minister Roger Cook fired back at Mr Kirkup, saying Labor Government’s large financial backing shows their commitment to its completion and the region.
“The McGowan Government is committed to bringing lifesaving radiation oncology services to the Great Southern as soon as practicable,” he said.
“This is a complex piece of work that will be housing radioactive machinery – public safety needs to be the number one priority for the staff and patients using the service.
“We aren’t going to cut corners on safety in rush to the ribbon.
“It’s disingenuous for Mr Kirkup to say Albany has been left behind.
“The Federal Liberal party are only contributing $6.6m to the machine, whereas the McGowan Government is contributing double that.”
The campaign to obtain a radiotherapy machine for Albany began more than four years ago with Denmark resident Mary Williams at the helm.
Ms Williams said she was fed up with “excuses” from the Labor camp and wanted some “real” answers.
“Minister Cook knows exactly how I feel,” she said.
“What is the hold up? He’s making the excuses of ‘it’s a very difficult project, we want to keep people safe’ and I understand all that, but what’s going to be any different in the next year or two years?”
Ms Williams said Labor leaders were not being clear on the timeline and were potentially putting immunocompromised people at risk by delaying the project.
“Our vulnerable people are travelling these incredible distances, it’s absolutely horrendous,” she said.
“Just give me an answer as to why this project cannot be fast-tracked … We need this now – not yesterday, not tomorrow – now.”
Ms Williams had some choice words for the Premier for his lack of progress on the project.
“If he thinks he can swan in here with his campaign and all the rest of it, then it ain’t gonna happen,” she said.
“There’s a lot of people very angry about this, and right now the Great Southern are on edge.
“The gloves are off now, and they have been for some time. These false promises and fobbing off is totally unacceptable, and we as the Great Southern will not tolerate this.”