Epworth HealthCare transfer radiation oncology operations at South West Regional Cancer Centre

Change: Epworth HealthCare will cease its radiation oncology operations at the South West Regional Cancer Centre from the end of the year.
Change: Epworth HealthCare will cease its radiation oncology operations at the South West Regional Cancer Centre from the end of the year.

UPDATE: 3pm

Epworth Radiation Oncology executive director Damian Armour has reassured the community its 13 staff at the Warrnambool centre will continue working under new provider Icon Group.

Epworth HealthCare staff announced on Tueday that it would cease its radiation oncology operations at the South West Regional Cancer Centre (SWRCC) from the end of the year. 

Positions that will be unaffected include administration, nursing staff and radiation therapists.

“All staff will be offered positions, the same terms and conditions and their entitlements preserved,” Mr Amour said. “We’ve been very clear with Icon that the staff will be taken care of and not disadvantaged in any way, shape or form.” 

He said Epworth Radiation Oncology delivered private radiotherapy services in Richmond and East Melbourne and was contracted by the Victorian government to deliver public radiotherapy services at the SWRCC in Warrnambool. 

Mr Armour said he and Epworth Healthcare chief executive Lachlan Henderson presented to staff members at the three sites via videolink on Tuesday at 7.30am.

“We want to reinforce that when a patient from this region attends the centre, they’ll see the same people at the front desk, they’ll be treated by the same therapists and nurses. Our absolute commitment to this transition is that patients and staff are minimally impacted, if impacted at all,” Mr Armour said. 

In its first 12 months, the Epworth delivered almost 300 radiotherapy courses, up on the 220 that was estimated prior to the centre’s opening in July 2016. 

Icon Group chief Mark Middleton said its service would equal that of the Epworth’s.

“I understand how much the community wanted the cancer service in Warrnambool,” Mr Middleton said. “I know how much it means to the community. 

“There’s a lot of passion and commitment to regional cancer services and that’s exactly what we want to continue in Warrnambool.” 

He said while it was not viable for the Epworth to continue operating its three radiotherapy services, it was an opportunity for Icon to take over. 

“One of the challenges with running radiation oncology services is the expense of the technology and how often you have to reinvest in the technology,” Mr Middleton said.

“When you only run three services like Epworth did it becomes very difficult to keep reinvesting. We have 15 of these centres already. This (service change) will take us to 18 (centres) and we’re opening another five over the next 18 months.”

Mr Middleton said Icon had greater buying power and a greater depth of specialised staff, with 130 oncologists across Australia. He said the centre’s leadership would continue under current site manager Liam Jukes. 

“Given the closeness of our relationship with the Epworth over many years, it was logical that we would take over those (radiation) services for them. This allows them to concentrate on what they do best, which is deliver general hospital services, and what we do best is deliver oncology services.” 

Peter’s Project founder Vicki Jellie and the foundation’s board, which lobbied state and federal governments and led a community campaign to fundraise to have the centre built, were informed of the change at noon.

Ms Jellie said she was very surprised and said they had a very good relationship with the Epworth, who had provided an excellent service to the south-west.

She said it would be business as usual at the centre and patients and the foundation’s support programs would not be affected. 

Ms Jellie said the community campaigned to bring radiation oncology to Warrnambool and it was important that the service remained in the city. “For us it’s all about community and patient care,” she said.

“l look forward to meeting with Icon on Monday and working with them. “We know that they’re a very good provider of radiation therapy treatment and we expect that to continue in Warrnambool.”

EARLIER

Epworth HealthCare will cease its radiation oncology operations at the South West Regional Cancer Centre (SWRCC) from the end of the year. 

Epworth Radiation Oncology executive director Damian Armour said it was no longer viable for Epworth to provide the service, which would be transferred to cancer care provider Icon Group.

Mr Armour said there would be no change to patient services and no loss of jobs at the south-west centre. 

He said the decision for Epworth to transition out of radiation oncology service provision came down to scale and capacity.

“What we’ve realised is that we’re just not big enough to really make this side of the business viable,” he said. “It was simply logical for us to consider the potential opportunities with an industry leader with the acknowledged expertise and scale of Icon Group.”

While Epworth will no longer be providing radiotherapy services, it will continue its association with the region to manage the SWRCC, he said. 

The integrated cancer centre opened in July 2016 and services patients in south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia. 

Icon Group chief Mark Middleton said his company was committed to delivering exceptional cancer care across its expanding portfolio of 12 specialist radiation oncology radiation centres across Australasia.

“Icon Group have a strong commitment to delivering cancer centres close to where people live,” Mr Middleton said. 

“This has seen us establish significant regional radiation oncology services nationally, including a number of radiation therapy contracts with the Queensland government. We are delighted to join the Warrnambool community and expect a seamless transition of services,” he said.

It is expected the transition will be completed by the end of 2017.

MORE TO COME