THE federal government has ruled out special funding for a south-west integrated cancer care centre after meeting with a Peter’s Project delegation in Canberra.
Campaigners yesterday took community calls to end long-distance travel faced by the region’s cancer sufferers direct to the office of federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek.
Although the group left parliament with no promises, it remains upbeat in the wake of the meeting.
The delegation touched down in Canberra on Tuesday to press for a $10 million commitment towards radiotherapy services in Warrnambool to service as far as the south-east of South Australia.
Promises hadn’t been expected from either side of politics during the trip, but it is hoped the meetings will place the need for the centre on the radar of all parties.
The delegation said while Ms Plibersek was understanding of the pain faced by those in need of radiotherapy treatment, she squared responsibility for funding with the state government.
Speaking from a taxi late yesterday afternoon, Peter’s Project founder Vicki Jellie described the half-hour meeting as “emotional”.
“She was very good, she received us very well,” Ms Jellie said.
“She thinks the state government should fully fund it since they were the ones who promised it from the start.”
If the Commonwealth does fund the centre, it will have to come from a federal health pot known as the health and hospitals fund (HHF).
Victoria lodged a request for the cash last year but was turned down. “She said that funding for cancer centres comes from the HHF, which she knew we applied for,” Ms Jellie said, adding that the chances of another HHF opening this year were doubtful.
However, Ms Jellie said she was hopeful the government would find a way to make funding available during the impending election campaign. The minister encouraged Peter’s Project to remain in contact with the government.
The group also met a handful of Coalition MPs including opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton, regional health spokesman Dr Andrew Laming, finance spokesman Andrew Rob and advisors to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and treasury spokesman Joe Hockey.
“No promises but we were very well heard,” Ms Jellie said.
Mr Dutton reiterated that he would make a “hard case” for Peter’s Project, which he met with during a tour of the south-west last December.
“My view is that (Wannon MP) Dan Tehan and Vicki Jellie have put forward a compelling case for there to be a centre and I am going to make a hard case so I can get the centre built,” Mr Dutton said.
“It has to be merits based and all of the evidence I have received from the local community proves that there is a significant need for this investment.”
Ms Jellie vowed to keep fighting to see the first bricks layed for the centre next year.
“We’re exhausted, but it was very well worth coming here,” Ms Jellie said.