The race is on to build cancer unit by 2010

By Alex Easton

THE North Coast Area Health Service has already started reworking its timeline for Lismore's planned cancer unit following Labor's $7 million pledge.

Page Labor candidate Janelle Saffin announced on Wednesday her party would commit $7 million to get the unit built by the end of 2009, if Labor won the election. The funding would lift the total Federal commitment to $15 million.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Ms Saffin and Labor health spokeswoman Nicola Roxon said the extra $7 million would be handed over in two payments half upfront and half on completion; and that the second payment would not be delivered if the new unit were not complete by March, 2010.

North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said the expected cost of the unit was about $25 million; up from $16 million when Mr Abbott and NSW Health Minister Frank Sartor announced in July, 2004, the State and Commonwealth governments would split the unit's cost.

Mr Crawford said the extra $7 million would let the health service:

Get planning done more quickly;

Demolish the existing Richmond Clinic building to make way for the new integrated cancer unit;

Move some services, such as the pain clinic, that are currently based in the Richmond Clinic, to new lodgings.

Page Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis, whose leader Mark Vaile has promised an extra $2 million for the unit if work begins next year, questioned Mr Crawford's increased bill for the unit.

"I can't understand why the costs have escalated to that extent," he said. "The Alstonville bypass has gone from $36 million to $90 million and I can't say why."

Mr Gulaptis said Labor had already shown through the NSW Government it could not be trusted to deliver on its promises.



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