Pri­vate can­cer cen­tre opens


‘‘It's a sign the sys­tem is open to new in­vest­ment ... for pa­tients who want a choice.’’

Pa­tients are al­ready lin­ing up for treat­ment at a new pri­vate can­cer cen­tre which will of­fer ‘‘world class’’ care for pri­vately in­sured peo­ple in Welling­ton and its sur­round­ing re­gions.

Last week, Prime Min­is­ter Bill English cut the rib­bon to open the multi-mil­lion dol­lar cen­tre based at Bowen Hos­pi­tal in Crofton Downs.

The cen­tre is a part­ner­ship be­tween Aus­tralian can­cer care provider Icon Group and New Zealand’s Acu­rity Health Group, and means Welling­ton can­cer pa­tients will be able to opt for pri­vate care in their own city for the first time.

A year ago, the cen­tre was an empty store­room where the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions were kept, Acu­rity chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Eng­land said.

‘‘They had a col­lec­tion of old roof tiles over there, and dec­o­ra­tions over here ... so it’s come up beau­ti­fully,’’

The build was worth around $2m, but the in­vest­ment will bal­loon as ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy is in­tro­duced for ra­di­a­tion ther­apy.

‘‘The elec­tronic ma­chine that goes in the [ra­di­a­tion] bunker is about $3m alone, then you’ve got to have con­crete lin­ing - so we ex­pect the costs to rapidly move up.’’

The build was ini­tially planned for Wake­field Hos­pi­tal in New­town, at an es­ti­mated cost of $20m, but build­ing at Bowen saved money by mak­ing use of ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

Chemo­ther­apy and other treat­ments for can­cers will be of­fered this year, with con­sul­ta­tions set to be­gin next week.

The cen­tre will ini­tially treat hun­dreds of pa­tients every year, with this ex­pected to grow over time.

English said the cen­tre – funded en­tirely by the pri­vate sec­tor – wasn’t a sign the Gov­ern­ment was fail­ing in pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate can­cer care through the pub­lic sys­tem.

‘‘It’s a sign the sys­tem is open to new in­vest­ment ... for pa­tients who want a choice, and dif­fer­ent mod­els of care.’’

In 2012, New Zealand recorded 210 can­cer deaths per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion, be­low the UK’s rate of 226 but above the Aus­tralian and US rates of 193.

There are around 63 new can­cer cases reg­is­tered in New Zealand every day, so new can­cer ser­vice in­fra­struc­ture was es­sen­tial in the face of grow­ing can­cer rates, English said.

‘‘Pri­vate can­cer care has a vi­tal role to play in aug­ment­ing the pub­lic ser­vice in New Zealand by broad­en­ing treat­ment ca­pac­ity and choice.’’

Ra­di­a­tion on­col­ogy will join the cur­rent ser­vice by the end of 2018.

The lat­est on­col­ogy tech­nol­ogy and treat­ments will be on of­fer to di­ag­nose and treat all adult can­cers. The cen­tre won’t treat chil­dren.

Pa­tients from any­where in New Zealand can line up, but the fo­cus is on pro­vid­ing ex­tra re­sources to sup­port can­cer pa­tients lo­cally.

Costs are worked out case by case, and would de­pend on what drugs were used, site man­ager Darien Mont­gomerie said.

‘‘Some of the newer mon­o­clonal an­ti­bod­ies are un­der $10,000, but some are a lot cheaper than that. Some of the chemo­ther­a­pies that have been around for years are very, very cheap.’’

Icon Group med­i­cal di­rec­tor Dr Ian Irv­ing said the cen­tre ‘‘of­fers world class care. This is some­thing that lo­cal New Zealand res­i­dents de­serve.’’

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