The new LINAC started clinical work in December, but was officially opened by Palmerston North MP Tangi Utikere during a small ceremony on Monday, 8 March, attended by DHB staff and Board members, and representatives from the Cancer Society and Te Aho o Te Kahu (Cancer Control Agency).
MidCentral DHB Cancer Screening, Treatment and Support Clinical Executive Dr Claire Hardie said the LINAC, a vital tool in the delivery of radiation therapy to cancer patients, would bolster the number of patients able to treated on a linac from 20 - 25 people per day to up to 35.
“Treatment times will be significantly shortened compared to our older machines with average treatment appointments being 12 minutes,” she said.
More than 1400 people a year pass through the regional cancer treatment service, with 26 per cent from Hawke’s Bay and 20 per cent from Taranaki.
“The faster treatment times means patients are on the treatment couches for shorter periods of time, so the treatment is easier to tolerate, enables greater precision and means we can treat more people,” Dr Hardie said.
The machine is the second of two replacement LINACs to be commissioned at Palmerston North Hospital, with the first replacement LINAC installed and commissioned in mid-2020.
Both LINACS, valued at about $8m, were part of a Government plan to replace 12 LINACs throughout New Zealand.
Dr Hardie said the next phase of upgrading radiation treatment services at the RCTS would see one machine set up at each of Hastings and New Plymouth hospitals in satellite units to the main tertiary centre in Palmerston North, sparing patients from these regions travelling to Palmerston North.
From left: From left, Acting Operations Executive, Te Uru Mātai Matengau - Cancer Screening, Treatment and Support Sarah Fenwick; Clinical Executive, Te Uru Mātai Matengau - Cancer Screening, Treatment and Support Claire Hardie; Palmerston North MP Tangi Utikere; MidCentral DHB chief executive Kathryn Cook; MidCentral DHB board deputy chair Oriana Paewai.
Palmerston North MP Tangi Utikere speaks at the opening of a new linear accelertator at Palmerston North Hospital.