Doc­tors in cancer fund war

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

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’.

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