Get started on cancer, Abbott says
By Jane Gardner HEALTH Minister Tony Abbott left town this week with a warning to the State Government to get cracking on cancer care for Lismore.
In a series of meetings Mr Abbott made it clear if the State Government couldn't provide a starting date for work on the unit at Lismore Base Hospital soon, he would be tempted to give $8m earmarked for the project to a private company.
St Vincent's Hospital CEO Bob Walsh revealed yesterday they would be more than happy to house radiotherapy, but local doctors don't think this would be in the best interests of cancer sufferers.
Mr Walsh put the case for radiotherapy at St Vincent's Hospital to Mr Abbott on Tuesday.
He said that the meeting had been 'very constructive'. "If the State Government can't give a completion date for their radiotherapy unit, then we want to confer with the Minister about the opportunity of the radiotherapy unit operating out of St Vincent's within the shortest possible time frame," he said.
Mr Abbott told Mr Walsh he would only consider the option if it was guaranteed to service public patients.
Assisting State Minister for Health, Verity Firth, yesterday told The Northern Star the State Government was completely committed to cancer care at Lismore Base Hospital, but could not give an answer on a starting date.
"Only last week NSW Health wrote to the Australian Government to reiterate that the preferred site for these services was Lismore Base Hospital," Ms Firth said.
Dr Chris Ingall, of the Lismore Base Hospital Medical Staff Council, said he felt Mr Walsh had made an admirable offer, but the cancer care should stay at LBH.
"We are totally in agreement with Bob Walsh that our primary concern is radiotherapy for Lismore," he said.
"We are pleased to see that commitment should the public model fail.
"But the doctors' group sees an intrinsic advantage in the public model, because all doctors would be on one site and it would help us in any push to provide accommodation. We look forward to the State Government building in a timely fashion."