Feds push State to back cancer care

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on October 4, 2018

DESPITE unwavering Federal and local support, the State Government says it needs to put “more consideration” into backing a radiotherapy facility in Albany to enable Great Southern cancer patients to receive treatment closer to home.

In the wake of a $6.6 million funding announcement by Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson to aid the purchase of radiotherapy equipment for a private facility at Albany Day Hospital, State health minister Roger Cook said further thought and planning was required before the State could throw its full support behind the project.

“The WA Government welcomes the Commonwealth funding commitment towards the purchase of oncology equipment,” he said.

“More consideration needs to be given to the project and communication is ongoing with the Federal Government and the WA Country Health Service.”

Federal health minister Greg Hunt made a whirlwind trip to Albany on Tuesday in a show of support for the project and further insisted the State come to the party.

Mr Hunt said the likely remaining cost for the radiotherapy facility would be $6 million, of which the State’s contribution could potentially be half.

He said Genesis Cancer Care, the private provider awarded the license for the facility, would contribute “significantly” and split the remaining cost “50/50” with the State.

“This [facility] is in WA’s interest, it’s in Albany’s interest and we would like the State to do what other states are doing and provide this basic facility,” Mr Hunt said.

“It’s about moving quickly now.

“This is in the top 100 projects in the country.

“The Commonwealth has assessed need and viability, and determined that Albany has high need and high viability.

“I don’t think the State can ignore this finding by the Commonwealth.

“It is innovative, where you have private and public and community com- ing together, and the only missing part now is the State.”

Genesis Cancer Care general manager Michael Davis said although he would not guarantee the facility would be operational by the June 30, 2019 date as suggested by Mr Wilson previously, he said it would not be a long process once the wheels started turning.

“There are many requirements to be considered prior to commencing a service,” he said.

“The first step is to agree on a service model that will benefit all patients in the region.

“Then, a site is required and further capital raised to build the facility.

“There are still a number of unknowns, but once these are agreed, the service can come together quickly.”

WA Country Health Service regional director for the Great Southern David Naughton, who stated in March that the WA Health Clinical Services Framework for 2014 to 2024 did not include a dedicated radiation oncology treatment service for the Great Southern, would not speculate on the role WACHS would play in a radiotherapy facility.

“In other parts of Western Australia, some public radio oncology treatment services are delivered by the private sector and organisations such as Genesis Care,” he said.

“However, as there has been no formal assessment of the capital cost of an Albany facility, it would be remiss of the WA Country Health Service to speculate on the role it would play in the development and operation of this technology.”

Mr Naughton said patients in the Great Southern currently have access to a range of specialised outpatient cancer treatments in Albany and are supported to access radiotherapy in Bunbury and Perth.

In instances where travel is required, Mr Naughton said eligible patients are able to apply for financial support in the form of the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme.