HEALTHY PROMISES: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Janelle Saffin back in 2010
HEALTHY PROMISES: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Janelle Saffin back in 2010 Jacklyn Wagner

PM's $9.1m Lismore health pledge

LISMORE will get a second radiotherapy machine, a high-tech PET scanner and a 20-unit accommodation centre for cancer patients under a $9.1 million announcement to be made by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today.

Mr Rudd is expected to visit Lismore this morning, where he will announce the extra funding for Lismore Base Hospital’s new cancer care unit, which is due to be completed next month.

Mr Rudd’s announcement follows years of campaigning by the community, including The Northern Star, for a positron emission tomography scanner, which gives three-dimensional images useful in examining tumours, as well as heart and brain disease, to be included in the cancer unit.

It also follows years of behind-the-scenes work by the Northern Rivers Community Cancer Foundation to have accommodation for patients build alongside the unit – helping people from distant parts of the region access life-saving radiotherapy services.

Foundation spokesman Dr Chris Ingall said the $2.6 million expected to be announced today matched what the organisation had asked for and meant funding for the units was ‘hopefully’ finalised.

The remaining $6.5 million would go towards the second linear accelerator for radiotherapy treatments and the PET scanner.

Today’s announcement appears to rule out a bid to fund the North Coast as one of 10 ‘best practice regional cancer centres’.

That bid, put up by the North Coast Area Health Service and NSW Health, would have meant more than $50 million in extra investment in cancer services on the North Coast – on top of the $9.1 million being announced today.

However, cancer specialist Dr Adam Boyce, who was involved in preparing the submission, said the extra money would have been diffused across the North Coast and today’s announcement gave the Northern Rivers what it wanted.

The PET scanner would help attract and keep specialists in heart and brain disease, as well as cancer, while the second radiotherapy unit and the accommodation complex would improve the service’s ability to cater for the region.

Today’s announcement meant Lismore would become a centre of excellence for cancer treatment, regardless of what titles were conferred by the Government, he said.

“If we have the advanced diagnostics there to treat patients and can build on other services, like specialist services, we can call ourselves that,” Dr Boyce said.

Mr Rudd said the investment in Lismore’s cancer treatment services was a ‘change for the future’.

“For some cancers, patients from regional areas are up to three times more likely to die within five years of diagnosis than those who live in urban Australia,” he said.

“Our view is that’s not good enough. It is just not good enough, and we have to make a change for the future.

“The Government is now investing $2.3 billion in cancer infrastructure, medicines, screening and research right across the country, but the missing part in the jigsaw has been the delivery of integrated cancer care centres and integrated cancer services in rural and regional Australia.

“That’s why I’m pleased to announce a $9.1 million investment in cancer services in Lismore, to make sure people with cancer on the North Coast can get care closer to home and their community.”

For more on Mr Rudd's visit to the region, grab a copy of tomorrow's Northern Star.

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