PRIME Minister Julia Gillard is being urged to get Health Minister Tanya Plibersek to listen to pleas for a south-west integrated cancer centre.
A week after the health minister snubbed a meeting request, the Warrnambool-based Peter’s Project is going over Ms Plibersek’s head as it ramps up the widely-supported campaign.
A three-page letter bound for Canberra calls on Ms Gillard to reverse the meeting knock-back made by the department of health, which sparked outrage among Peter’s Project supporters.
The snub was also backed last week by Labor’s Corangamite MP Darren Cheeseman, who pointed to an empty health coffer known as the health and hospital fund (HHF) used by the federal government to fund one-off projects.
Peter’s Project founder Vicki Jellie said the group would continue banging on doors in Canberra until its case was heard.
“The plan is to put forward to Julia Gillard how disappointed we were that we were not considered for a meeting,” Ms Jellie said.
“We know that the health and hospital fund is done but we want to discuss how we can go on without that.”
Last year the state Liberal/National government with the support of South West Healthcare, where the centre would be based, applied to the HHF but was turned down.
South West Healthcare chief executive officer John Krygger said the hospital was still pursuing cash outside the funding stream.
“We believe that we have a compelling enough case that the residents of south-west Victoria are disadvantaged,” Mr Krygger said.
“I understand that the Commonwealth has no plans to convene the HFF round.”
Ms Jellie vowed to continue the campaign path to Canberra even if the government delivered another blow.
“We’re hoping for a positive response to get a meeting,” she said.
Supporters will also step up pressure on the federal Coalition to make a commitment to the centre.
Member for Wannon Dan Tehan and Coalition health spokesman Peter Dutton have verbally supported the campaign but are yet to announce a formal policy promising to fund the centre.
Ms Plibersek was unavailable for comment yesterday.