The region’s chemotherapy service provision will remain unchanged following the opening of the South West Regional Cancer Centre.
Warrnambool hospitals St John of God and South West Healthcare will continue to provide chemotherapy services.
The only change is that South West Healthcare will move across the road to be located at the new cancer centre from early August.
The centre will also provide radiotherapy, which is operated by Epworth Healthcare as a public service with no cost to patients. The first patients will receive treatment on Monday.
Medical oncologist Terri Hayes said the centre’s opening meant patients could continue to choose where to have their treatment.
“The St John of God chemotherapy service won’t change. It will come down to what we’ve been doing, giving patients the choice to use their private health insurance (at St John of God) or being a private in public patient at the (new) centre,” Dr Hayes said.
“People have always been given the choice in the past and that will continue.”
St John of God director of nursing Leanne McPherson said there had been some confusion that St John of God Hospital Warrnambool would no longer offer chemotherapy services.
“Patients will still be able to access our services here and they’ll be able to access radiotherapy at the new centre,” she said.
“There will be private chemo here (St John of God) and public chemo at South West Healthcare’s chemo unit, which will now be located at the new cancer centre.”
Dr Hayes said having radiation oncology services available in Warrnambool meant those who previously couldn’t leave the south-west for work or family reasons may now opt to have treatment locally.
“I’ve had many many patients, maybe even half of the patients previously, refuse to have radiotherapy or elect to have a different type of operation to avoid travelling or the stress of leaving the family,” she said.
“They’re dairy farmers and the cows still have to be milked so ‘I won’t have radio therapy because it’s just not practical’.
“Now they can milk the cows, come and have their treatment and milk them again in the afternoon or take kids to school and pick them back up in the afternoon.”
Associate professor Ian Collins said patients would travel from Mount Gambier and beyond for treatment.
“It’s important to emphasise that it’s a regional centre so we’d expect to treat patients from Portland, Hamilton and Mount Gambier and even further afield,” he said.
The centre is expected to treat 500 patients annually.