Doctors in cancer fund war
CANCER treatments will become more expensive or even be compromised should the federal government proceed with its cuts to radiation oncology equipment, oncologists have warned.
Expensive linear accelerators, CT machines and software needed to treat cancer patients had been funded under a Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants scheme.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists said the scheme ensured vital equipment required to treat cancers was regularly replaced instead of being run down. However the college learned last year the government will cut about $67 million from the scheme from July 1, forcing hospitals to either purchase the equipment or pass on the costs to patients.
An eleventh-hour meeting with Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office has failed to stop the cuts, with the Opposition now stepping in to call for the funding to continue.
According to the college, funding for equipment, such as a brachytherapy machine crucial to treating cancer of the cervix, would be scrapped altogether.
Funding would also cease for CAT scanners, which are vital to map treatment areas and cost up to $800,000 each.
College dean of radiation oncology Dion Forstner said: “The biggest impacts of the cuts will be down the track when the equipment becomes outdated, particularly in smaller centres in regional areas ... patients will receive compromised treatment.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King described the cuts as concerning.
Mr Hunt said claims of $67 million cuts were not true.
He said they were new ‘administrative arrangements’ to allow for ‘ sustainable, quality radiotherapy’.