An investment of $25 million will go towards funding the first five replacement LINACS, which includes $8 million to be allocated to MidCentral DHB to fund the purchase and installation of two new replacement LINACS at Palmerston North Hospital. Palmerston North is the tertiary centre for the Regional Cancer Treatment Service (RCTS), which provides cancer treatment to the MidCentral, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Whanganui and Wairarapa district health boards.
The Government has also offered its support to a plan by the RCTS to install two additional new LINACS in the Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki DHBs within the next two to five years. These are areas where people with cancer have had to previously travel to Palmerston North Hospital for all of their radiation treatment.
MidCentral DHB Chief Executive Kathryn Cook said: “Having all of our radiation cancer treatments at Palmerston North Hospital has been a significant barrier for many people living far from the city. This is a big step towards the provision of more equitable access for all people in the RCTS coverage area who require radiation oncology services.”
MidCentral DHB Clinical Executive, Cancer Screening, Treatment and Support, Dr Claire Hardie said: “We know some people have no ability to receive radiation therapy, as they do not have the support or resources to be away from home for any significant length of time.”
“Many radiation treatments require four to eight weeks of therapy. For people who live a long way from a radiation treatment centre, this means they are often unable to work and need to spend time away from their loved ones.”
“These planned changes will be greatly appreciated by those people who need this treatment and who will be able to experience improved health outcomes and a better quality of life.”
Another benefit of the new LINAC machines is that they are more efficient, providing the same intensity of treatment in less overall time than older models. This also frees up capacity to treat more people.
Radiation therapy is involved in about 40 per cent of all cancer cures.
Among the primary candidates for close-to-home treatment are those with breast or prostate cancer, who will be most likely to be able to combine this treatment with their everyday lives. Initial consultations for radiation treatment will still need to be done at Palmerston North Hospital, as will complex cancer cases.
Ms Cook said funds already set aside for the replacement of the two new Palmerston North Hospital LINACS would now be allocated to other priority areas.
New Zealand has 24 publicly-funded LINACS, which have a lifespan of about 10 years.
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