By Chris Thomson | posted on November 23, 2018
AFTER critique of his estimated costing and timing for radiotherapy equipment, Health Minister Roger Cook says he will meet with GenesisCare “soon” to discuss “the oncology landscape and range of services currently offered” in the Great Southern.
Last week, Federal Member for O’ Connor Rick Wilson challenged Mr Cook’s $14 million funding estimate for a bunker to house the much-anticipated equipment (‘Cancer cost counted’, 15 November).
Mr Cook’s estimate was based on the cost in 2009 to instal a bunker at Bunbury (‘Cancer cash raincheck’, 8 November).
But Mr Wilson said the Bunbury bunker housed two radiotherapy machines, whereas $6.6 million of funding he recently announced through The Weekender (‘Cancer funding coup’, 13 September) was for one machine only.
He said national company GenesisCare, which installed the Bunbury machines and plans to provide one in Albany, told him a bunker could be built at Albany Health campus for about $3 million.
He said requests from GenesisCare, and from him on the company’s behalf, to meet Mr Cook had fallen on deaf ears.
After deadline last week, Mr Cook revealed the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) had begun a feasibility study, “which will be complete in the course of next year”, into the machine.
“The study will need to include broader master planning considerations for the Albany Health Campus site,” he said.
“It’s important to appreciate that the feasibility study will not only consider the cost of the bunker, but also the supporting infrastructure and associated service costs, with detailed costings required for the full operation of such a service.
“Projects of this scale and complexity rightfully demand appropriate financial due diligence to be observed and, as such, communication is ongoing with the Federal government and the WA Country Health Service.”
Last week, General Manager of GenesisCare WA Michael Davis did not respond to a Weekender request for confirmation of the costing advice relayed by Mr Wilson.
Mr Cook said the Federal funding was welcome, but a bit like giving someone furniture when they do not have a home.
“I’m not going to be hurried into signing a blank cheque to suit Rick Wilson’s Federal election timeframes,” he said.
“In the interim, the Great Southern region currently offers a comprehensive cancer service including visiting medical specialists, specialist cancer nursing services, a day chemotherapy unit, and a complementary therapies unit at the Albany Hospital.”
Until Mr Wilson announced the grant, WACHS had repeatedly said radiotherapy equipment was off the table for the Great Southern until at least 2024.
At last week’s Albany Show, NationalsWA Leader Mia Davies said Mr Cook had unnecessarily politicised provision of the machine.
“The Minister [has] made it about an election, and what we’re talking about is something that is potentially life-saving equipment for not just the people of Albany but for the entire Great Southern,” she said.
“We’ve met with [radiotherapy machine advocate] Mary [Williams] from Denmark who is so passionate about it, and it’s mystifying to me why when you’ve got enormous community support and support coming from the Federal Government that the response from the State Government is that: ‘Oh well, we’ll need to look into it, we’ll need to do the business case’.
“I’m not saying those things don’t need to be done but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency in relation to this, and it’s not a new issue.”