Lack of funding commitments from Barnett Government putting cancer patients at risk

Tuesday 12 Mar 2013

The Union representing radiation oncology professionals has called on the newly elected Barnett Government to make a funding commitment to West Australian cancer patients.

HSUWA Secretary Dan Hill said during the election campaign, the Labor party pledged $100 million to tackle cancer, and the Liberal party should at least match that.

"Colin Barnett didn't make any new commitments during the campaign to ensure services are delivered to cancer patients," said Mr Hill.

"Now that he has been returned to government, he is in a position to help these members of our community. 

Mr Hill said more funding was needed to provide cancer services at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, where there was a shortage of Radiation Therapists.

"With any cancer, early diagnosis and timely treatment is critical," said Mr Hill.

"Staff shortages are causing delays that can impact on patient outcomes. At least four more Radiation Therapists are required."

Mr Hill said the Barnett Government had invested in Australian-first technology with the Clarity Ultrasound system and the Cyberknife, a highly advanced tool that precisely targets tumours with radiation doses.

However, in order for the new technologies to be fully utilised, at least two extra Research Radiation Therapists were needed to speed up their clinical implementation.

The Union said a continuing shortage of Radiation Oncology Medical Physicists meant that out of the 30% of cancer patients who could benefit from the advanced high precision IMRT radiotherapy, only 2% were actually receiving it.

"More needs to be done to recruit these specialised Physicists and ensure that patients can receive the best available treatment," he said.

Mr Hill said so far, the Barnett Government's answer to providing more cancer services had been to contract them out to private operators.

HSUWA represents more than 15,000 people employed in WA hospitals and health services, including for example administrators, clerks, technicians, radiation therapists, physicists, physiotherapists, pharmacists, medical imaging technologists, psychologists, social workers, medical scientists, occupational therapists, dieticians, biomedical technicians, maintenance officers, podiatrists, mental health workers, and speech pathologists. All play a vital role in our health system.

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