WARRNAMBOOL will have one of the best regional cancer treatment centres in regional Australia in less than two years.
It will be a one-stop shop featuring Medicare-approved radiotherapy, chemotherapy, specialists consulting suites, allied health services, therapy and other support services on three levels directly opposite the base hospital.
The $30 million project’s widened scope was revealed yesterday — six years after one man’s dying wish set in motion a groundswell of community support across the region.
Premier and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine revealed the centre’s earlier specification as solely a radiotherapy treatment base had been expanded to incorporate the base hospital’s chemotherapy unit and other components of its oncology unit.
It will be known as the South West Regional Cancer Centre to be operated partly by Epworth Healthcare and partly by South West Healthcare.
Preliminary designs were unveiled yesterday. Ground work is scheduled to start in February and project completion set for mid 2016.
Epworth is responsible for managing design and construction. It will use the same main contract company that undertook the $115m first-stage redevelopment of the base hospital and aims to engage local subcontractors providing dozens of local jobs. A multi-level parking facility for 139 vehicles will be adjacent.
The announcement was widely welcomed particularly by fund-raiser Vicki Jellie whose late husband Peter’s dying wish was for Warrnambool to have cancer treatment facilities so the region’s residents would not have to drive hours for treatment in Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat.
She started a Peter’s Project fund-raising campaign which achieved $5m in less than nine months and helped secure commitments of $15m from the state government and $10m from Canberra.
The locally-raised $5m will be used for a Peter’s Project Support Centre to be incorporated in the new building on Ryot Street.
“Having it all in one building with the oncologists means patients won’t fall through the cracks as happened to us in Melbourne,” she said.
“Without Peter’s Project pushing for chemotherapy, it wouldn’t have happened.
“It wasn’t in the planning, but we had to really bang on the table and say we wanted it.
“It’s a sensible outcome.”
South West Healthcare chief executive said chemotherapy patients at the base hospital were now treated in a substandard and temporary section.
“When this opportunity presented itself we pushed as hard as we could to convince government that this was a smart thing to do,” he said.
“The new chemotherapy facilities will have breathtaking views over Lady Bay on the second floor.
“Patients are the winners.
“We’ve future-proofed the building to accommodate expansion of cancer care.”
He said there were now eight chemotherapy chairs and in the new centre there would be capacity for 11.
Epworth’s Geelong chief executive Damian Armour said it was envisaged 200 to 250 radiotherapy patients would be treated during the first year with expansion to more than 300 subsequently.
One radiotherapy machine will be installed initially with a second bunker to be equipped later as the need arose.
“Warrnambool has synergies with our new development in Geelong — we are moving into western Victoria,” he said.