Cancer cash raincheck

By Chris Thomson | posted on November 8, 2018

STATE Health Minister Roger Cook says a tender for cancer radiotherapy equipment in Albany will not be let any time soon, despite a $6.6 million Federal commitment.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies asked if the State was “committed to fully funding the facility to house this equipment” and whether the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) had commenced a business case for the facility.

In response, Mr Cook told his Labor colleague, Legislative Assembly Speaker and Member for Albany Peter Watson there was a “Federal election in the wind and … promises of funding in different parts of the community I guess, as part of that process”.

‘Tis the season,” he gibed.

“From that perspective, we welcome the Federal Government’s proposal to purchase the equipment associated with this particular machine.

“But, Mr Speaker, some people have said that this is similar to providing someone with a saddle but no horse.”

Mr Cook said it was one thing to buy the equipment but “the lion’s share” of the expense would be a bunker to house it and recurrent costs of operating it.

“Our most recent experience in terms of funding the construction of a bunker for this equipment was around about $14 million, which was the experience back in 2009 in Bunbury,” he said.

“So, Mr Speaker, the offer is welcome and we are looking very closely at it.”

He said WACHS was a “long way away from” advertising a tender for the radiotherapy equipment.

From that, Ms Davies concluded the machine would not be operational by June 2019, as originally slated by Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson.

“Can you give an undertaking to this House and the people of Albany and the Great Southern that the McGowan Labor Government has a commitment to improving cancer treatment to the patients affected in that region?” she posed.

Mr Cook said: “We are certainly committed to having a look to make sure it makes sense”.

“I understand that the Federal Member for that area has got political ambitions, and I’m sure they’re related to the political cycle that we’re in, but as we’ve observed before, Mr Speaker, you can front up with a bit of cash to buy the equipment but there’s a vast amount of expense that’s associated with that,” he vollied.

“But we’ll certainly keep having a look at that and make sure that if there can be a viable business case put around it that we’ll get on board pretty quick smart.”

Until Mr Wilson announced a $6.6 million grant for radiotherapy equipment through The Weekender (‘Cancer funding coup’, 13 September), WACHS had continually stated such equipment was off the table for Albany until at least 2024.

His announcement came after sustained coverage here of Denmark resident Mary Williams’ ongoing battle to secure the radiotherapy equipment for Albany.