Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Paul Lucas today announced that radiation oncology services in Far North Queensland are one step closer, naming Radiation Oncology Queensland (ROQ) as the operators to run the new service.

“This is great news for cancer patients in the Far North,” Mr Lucas said.

“It means that from mid 2011, more public patients will be able to receive their treatment closer to home and their loved ones.

“Complex cancer treatment often requires a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, depending on the nature of the cancer.

“Today’s announcement means that for the first time, all three will be offered in Cairns for the vast majority of cases, however complex cases that require highly specialised treatment will still need to go to Brisbane.

“When the service opens, up to 340 patients each year will receive their treatment in Cairns, rather than having to travel to Townsville or Brisbane.

“To bring this important service online sooner in Far North Queensland, a private provider of radiation oncology services was sought through a tender process,” he said.

The announcement of the successful tenderer today follows a rigorous process to ensure value for money for taxpayers and the best possible service for Far North Queensland.

ROQ will deliver a number of benefits for cancer patients including:

  • Local access to radiotherapy for the first time
  • Reducing waiting times to access radiotherapy services
  • Providing capacity to meet the growing demand in coming years for radiotherapy treatment.

From next week, ROQ will begin recruiting specialist staff and will become involved in the fit-out and commissioning of the service, including the installation of specialist equipment such as linear accelerators.

Member for Cairns Desley Boyle said an important result of this new agreement will be that public patients pay no out-of-pocket costs to use this new service.

“This is great news for Far North Queensland,” Ms Boyle said.

“It means people in the Far North can get treatment closer to home and importantly, closer to their families.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the naming of ROQ as the provider of this service is an important milestone and means that the service is on track to begin operating in early 2011.

Member for Cook Jason O’Brien said the new service would be of particular benefit to patients from remote North Queensland.

“Currently a breast cancer patient from Cooktown may need to travel, away from their family, to Townsville or Brisbane for weeks at a time to receive treatment.

“When the new service opens they can get the care they need closer to loved ones.

Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall said residents in Cairns can already see work underway on Block E, which will house the new service.

“One of the early milestones was the completion of the ground floor bunkers that will house the linear accelerators that deliver radiotherapy,” Mr Wettenhall said.

“Block E will house other cancer services allowing for integrated cancer care service.

“That means patients will be able to receive all of their care in the one building.

“The construction of the building is now complete and work on internal fit-out has begun. Electricians, plumbers, steel works and concrete framers are actively working on site – part of the more than 2,600 jobs created over the life of the project.

A new multistorey car park will also open as part of the Block E redevelopment – this will be 70 per cent larger than the previous car park.

The ROQ service will be fully integrated with other cancer services such as day chemotherapy, specialist outpatient cancer care clinics, surgical and medical services, and palliative care.

The Commonwealth Government, through its Regional Cancer Centre funding round, has contributed $8.3 million to the construction of the new radiation oncology facility.

The new facility will be an important part of the State Government’s $446.3 million redevelopment.

The $446.3 million Cairns Base Hospital redevelopment is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2014.

When complete, the redeveloped hospital will provide new and improved health services, including;

  • An ambulatory cancer care centre with a new radiation oncology service
  • Additional cardiac care facilities
  • Additional surgical capacity including increased day surgery
  • Expanded intensive care capacity
  • Expanded birthing services, special care nursery and a new low risk birth centre
  • Additional aged care and rehabilitation services
  • Additional beds for mental health services.

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