Warrnambool’s cancer treatment services will soon rival the best in the nation thanks to a huge outpouring of community generosity.
Lifesaving equipment to help detect prostate cancer – one of only two in the nation – will arrive ahead of schedule thanks to a mammoth region-wide fund-raising campaign.
South West Healthcare’s Prostate Cancer Detector Appeal was launched in January, hoping to reach the $277,000 target by Christmas.
Instead, it’s taken just 15 weeks.
The money raised has exceeded expectations, allowing the hospital to upgrade its plans and purchase a rare piece of technology not available in any other public hospital in Australia.
For Peter’s Project Foundation director Vicki Jellie, whose organisation’s donation helped the campaign get over the line, the result is another huge step in the region’s cancer services.
Mrs Jellie understands better than most the value of people power. She saw the community get behind the push for South West Regional Cancer Centre and she was excited to see the region support another cancer cause.
The Peter’s Project Foundation kicked in $100,000 to the public appeal, which along with many other group and individual donations, helped reach the target in 15 weeks.
The generosity meant the $277,000 appeal instead topped $304,000.
It also means the equipment will arrive in the city sooner and is likely to be in use by the end of the year.
Mrs Jellie said the new technology would not only lead the way in cancer detection, but also save people having to travel.
“It’s exciting that people are coming together and all the things that people have done to get to this point,” she said of the fund-raising effort.
“It’s a great advantage to add to the cancer services we’re providing. We are providing best practice in cancer services in south-west Victoria and for regional Australia.”
For urologist Adee Davidson the prostate detector, or transperineal prostate biopsy system as it’s officially known, is a major win for the south-west.
“It’s the best technology available, better than any other offered in a public hospital in Australia. That’s purely because of the overwhelming support and the donations that were made by the community,” he said.
“From my point of view it highlights how important prostate cancer, and men’s health, issues are to the community.”
Mr Davidson said the biopsy system had lower rates of infection and complication, and was better able to target specific areas in the prostate, especially when combined with the imaging technology.
“Because of all the money that’s been raised we’ve been able to add software that uses the two technologies so that we can then use a computer to target areas,” he said.
“It’s the second system in Australia... this is the first of its kind in a public hospital.”
From fund-raisers already organised for the appeal, the hospital also now plans to upgrade some of its prostate surgery equipment. It will purchase a bipolar diathermy, which will significantly reduce the risk of complications when a trans urethral resection prostate surgery is performed.
Major contributors to the appeal included Warrnambool Racing Club ($14,086), Rotary Club of Terang ($5000), Terang op shop ($5000), Rotary Club of Warrnambool Daybreak ($4000), The Gall Family Foundation ($10,000), Timboon op shop ($1000), Warrnambool Crane Hire ($3000) and many other group and individual donations.
Making a shorter journey to health
For south-west men and their families, the process of being diagnosed and treated with prostate cancer can be a long journey in more ways than one.
When Peterborough’s Bob Hesketh had to seek further tests on his prostate, it meant four-hour round trips to Geelong.
It was to become a familiar trek throughout the treatment and eventual surgery to remove his prostate about 18 months ago.
Mr Hesketh said the arrival of a state-of-the-art prostate cancer detector would save other south-west men from the many hours spent on the road and away from families.
“It’s a significant advantage,” he said of the new equipment to be based in Warrnambool.
“Your support network, your family’s around. For my wife to come see me she had to rely on someone to drive her down to Geelong and back.
“It’s a two-hour drive home as opposed to a half-hour drive from Warrnambool.”