CANCER CARE UNIT BY 2011
By Patrizia Reimer & Brian Bigg
NSW Assistant Health Minister Verity Firth has given the firmest indication yet the State Government will provide radiotherapy services in Lismore as part the redevelopment of the hospital.
But the Federal Health Minister has accused the State Government of 'betraying' the people of the Northern Rivers by putting the completion date back yet again.
During a visit to Byron yesterday the Assistant Minister said the Northern Rivers should stop worrying about it.
"I want to unambiguously re-state that within the current term of parliament, we will deliver a cancer treatment service which at present doesn't exist on the State's Far North Coast."
The Northern Star and a growing number of community groups have been campaigning for a radiotherapy unit to be up and running as soon as possible.
More than 800 Northern Rivers cancer sufferers every year are forced to make the journey to Brisbane or the Gold Coast for treatment.
Ms Firth told The Northern Star the facility, Stage 2 of the redevelopment of Lismore Base Hospital, could not begin until Stage 1, an expanded Mental Health in-patient facility was completed (expected by early 2008 at a cost of $38.5 million).
"Lismore Base Hospital is a working hospital, so we need to do it in stages.
"There's been a bit of politicising especially in the lead up to the Federal election but we are 100 per cent committed. It's going to be absolutely fantastic."
Planning for Stage 2 began when a project consultant was appointed by the Government in June.
The Assistant Minister said questions about how much it will cost and when the work will begin will depend on what the consultant decides.
The entire project has been estimated to cost just over $100 million.
"It will definitely be happening by 2011, I don't know when it will be operational but I can absolutely assure people it's going to happen, there's no doubt in my mind. I don't think there needs to be worry about this."
The Federal Health Minister, Mr Abbott, said he remained disappointed that NSW had not delivered on its 2004 promise to have the work completed by 2007.