Cancer Council, COSA welcome “˜major investment’ in reducing regional cancer care inequity

Media Release – 7 April 2010

The Australian Government’s Delivering better cancer care plan released today is the most important federal initiative for reducing geographic inequity in cancer care outcomes that Australia has seen, Cancer Council Australia and the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia said today.

Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Council Australia, Professor Ian Olver, said it was well-documented that Australians diagnosed with cancer had poorer treatment outcomes the further they lived from a city where they could receive multidisciplinary cancer care.

“Last year’s federal budget announcement of $560  million for a network of regional cancer centres marked the first time an Australian Government committed to a major investment in reducing this disparity,” Professor Olver said.

“Today’s announcement of the first tranche of projects will improve the lives of thousands of cancer patients in rural and remote areas, who will be able to receive treatment and care much closer to their homes as a result of this unprecedented investment.”

President of the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA), Professor Bruce Mann, said COSA had undertaken a comprehensive mapping of regional oncology services in 2006, which identified opportunities for federal intervention consistent with today’s announcement.

“The best way to reduce the inequity in treatment outcomes between the city and the bush is to bring clinical services closer to where rural and remote patients live,” Professor Mann said.

“So this is a great day for the evolution of regional cancer care in Australia. Funding vital infrastructure such as new radiotherapy and chemotherapy facilities, PET scanners and accommodation for remote patients, as recommended by local communities, is a groundbreaking capital investment in regional cancer care.”

Professors Olver and Mann said Cancer Council Australia and COSA had for many years promoted the concept of a network of regional cancer centres, with capital funding from the Australian Government and recurrent costs provided from jurisdictions.

It was now important to improve patient travel and accommodation schemes, to ensure that cancer patients in more remote areas were better able to benefit from the milestone funding.

The Government’s commitment to introduce national standards and reporting in the health system to ensure consistent, high quality cancer care nationwide was also welcome, provided they were developed around advice from independent clinicians.

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