“You need 200 people to treat and you’ll never get that” is what Vicki Jellie was told during the campaign to build an integrated cancer centre.
So when she hears the number of people who’ve used the centre in its first 12 months it’s extra special.
“There was a lot of evidence that said we really shouldn’t have got it, but it was the people power that got it. That really made it happen and showed that it’s viable,” Ms Jellie said.
She gets emotional hearing about patients whose lives are made easier by having treatment at home.
“It makes you really, really happy that that’s what we set out to achieve,” Ms Jellie said.
“Those people are having the treatment that they wouldn’t have. That's very special and it’s really heartwarming.
“It makes all that work that everyone did really worthwhile. That outcome’s happened and will continue to happen.”
Ms Jellie has received feedback during the year from families saying “thank you all for doing such a wonderful thing”. “My mum didn’t have to go to Melbourne” or “financially it helped us because we couldn’t afford to go away”. “That’s just gorgeous.”
She said the Peter’s Project Foundation board met quarterly and was “blown away” donations continued to pour in. Donations go towards grants for regional health services for cancer-related equipment purchases.
Former Victorian premier Denis Napthine said he always believed the centre would happen.
“But it was a matter of how quickly we could do it and that was about the political lobbying and community fundraising, passion and enthusiasm,” Dr Napthine said.
He said the enormous groundswell of support from the community, donations and “opportune political events” ensured it was delivered sooner.
“There was a state election in 2010, a federal election in 2013 and even to the point of myself becoming premier in 2013, all those things helped smooth the path and make it quicker and easier than perhaps the prolonged fight we had for the south-west (rescue) helicopter,” Dr Napthine said.
He said the centre had exceeded expectations. “The staff are outstanding, the way it’s operating is just superb and the results are really making a difference.”
He said the integration between the city’s health providers was seamless.
“It’s been positive, the community support has remained really high and the number of people, tragically, being diagnosed with cancer and their treatment has exceeded the plans and expectations,” he said.
“Every one of those people is getting local treatment and has a significantly better chance of being a long-term survivor because of that centre.”
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