Janelle Saffin: Accommodation centre proposal assessed.
Janelle Saffin: Accommodation centre proposal assessed.

Roxon looks into cancer care plan

A DECISION on funding for two critical cancer care projects on the Northern Rivers will be made within weeks by Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, Page MP Janelle Saffin has said.

Ms Saffin said an independent committee had assessed proposals for an accommodation centre to sit alongside Lismore’s new cancer care unit and for a radical expansion of the unit.

Its recommendations were now being considered by the Minister as part of the Government’s plan to create 10 ‘best practice’ regional cancer centres.

The Government has been asked to pitch in $2.6 million for an accommodation complex for cancer sufferers getting treatment at the new unit and to spend $57.6 million creating a North Coast Cancer Institute at Lismore.

The approval of the institute would mean further improvements to the level of cancer treatment available at Lismore, including a second radiotherapy device and a high tech PET scanner.

PET (positron emission tomography) scanners provide detailed information on how organs and systems are working within the body and are particularly useful in assessing cancers, and brain and heart disease.

The medical staff council media liaison officer Dr Chris Ingall and Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell both said the accommodation complex was critical to the success of the cancer unit.

Cr Dowell said when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 she, like many local women, chose to have her breast removed rather than suffer daily trips to Tugun for radiotherapy.

The unit would mean women living in or near Lismore would not have to make that choice. However, if there were no affordable accommodation provided with the unit, women in other Northern Rivers communities – such as Woodenbong or Bonalbo – may find themselves still choosing mastectomies over radiotherapy.

“I think of somewhere like Woodenbong and that’s just too far to travel if you require daily treatment,” Cr Dowell said.

“That puts a great deal of strain on families, so it’s important to have accommodation that is affordable and subsidised and caters to the needs of cancer patients, rather than sitting in a noisy motel.”

A specialised accommodation complex for cancer sufferers also meant people could be given easy access to cancer volunteers and others who can understand the process and difficulties of being a cancer patient.

The complex would also mean families would be able to stay together while a loved one was getting cancer treatment – something that was especially important if it was a child.

Ms Saffin said she was confident both proposals would be approved and was lobbying Ms Roxon on the issue at every opportunity.

However, she did not know the committee’s recommendation and would not know the Minister’s decision until it had been made. 

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