Wimmera Cancer Centre receives cash boost

Don McRae, Director of Clinical Services, Don Johns, Wimmera Health Care Group Foundation chair, Mark Knights, Wimmera Health Care Group acting CEO, and Amelia Crafter, Wimmera Cancer Centre Fundraising Committee chair. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

Don McRae, Director of Clinical Services, Don Johns, Wimmera Health Care Group Foundation chair, Mark Knights, Wimmera Health Care Group acting CEO, and Amelia Crafter, Wimmera Cancer Centre Fundraising Committee chair. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

MURTOA cancer survivor Rachael Littore has thanked the community for their efforts in fundraising for the Wimmera Cancer Centre.

Miss Littore contacted Member for Mallee Andrew Broad in 2014 after learning of his commitment to establishing a state-of-the-art cancer centre in the Wimmera.

‘‘I saw an article in the Mail-Times about Andrew Broad trying to get funding for a new oncology unit,’’ she said.

‘‘I decided to write an email to him saying I fully supported his pursuit.’’ 

Miss Littore, 27, was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in 2013. 

The fundraising campaign for the Wimmera Cancer Centre, Rachael’s Wish, was named after her.

Miss Littore said she couldn’t believe it when she heard the news about the new funding on Tuesday.

“It’s an absolute blessing,” she said.

“We were so disappointed when we thought we hadn’t received any funding in the state budget.

“However, there have been times throughout the past two years where I’ve felt the community’s momentum build and I felt it building for the past two weeks.

“It’s so surreal.”

Murtoa's Rachael Littore, speaks to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott after he announced $1 million for the Wimmera Cancer Centre in 2015. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Murtoa's Rachael Littore, speaks to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott after he announced $1 million for the Wimmera Cancer Centre in 2015. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Miss Littore is a teacher and tells her students that their opinions matter.

“There are people in the community whose job it is to provide us with what we need,” she said.

“It is up to us to tell them and it’s nice to see them come through.”

Miss Littore’s treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma had to be administered between Horsham, Ballarat and her family home of Mildura.

UPDATE: 2.50pm: MEMBER for Lowan Emma Kealy believes the new funding for the Wimmera Cancer Centre meant the community’s hard work had paid off.

“I’m incredibly proud of the community for their support and lobbying for this project,” she said.

“It is so important to have high quality services in regional Victoria and it will be terrific to access this care in the region.

“Our health outcomes will be improved – it’s an amazing outcome.”

Ms Kealy said the centre would now be able to be built in full.

She said the community all worked together on securing this funding.

“An enormous amount of work has gone into this,” she said.

“We have some of the worst cancer rates in the state and it’s a shame that we had to get to that stage before something was done about it.”

UPDATE 2.20pm: Wimmera Health Care Group is buzzing after this afternoon’s announcement. 

Acting chief executive Mark Knights said today was an exciting and proud day for everyone at the health care group. 

“This money, along with the $1.4 million raised by the community and the $1 million contributed by the Commonwealth Government means the centre will be built in one stage and provide oncology, dialysis and community-based palliative care,” Mr Knights said. 

“We are so incredibly grateful to the state and Commonwealth governments, the Wimmera Health Care Group Foundation and all the amazing individuals, businesses and community groups that have made the Wimmera Cancer Centre a reality.

“From the day we launched the campaign to build the new centre, we have received nothing but support from the communities of the Wimmera and Southern-Mallee and everyone should feel extremely proud of the effect they have had.

“This centre will have a huge impact on the future health of our community.

“Today is an exciting and proud day for everyone at Wimmera Health Care Group.” 

Mr Knight’s said the latest funding added to $1 million the state government had contributed in a previous budget.

“We have worked closely with the Health Minister Jill Hennessy and the Department of Health and Human Services and they have always supported the project and acknowledged its importance,” he said.

“Through fundraising we have also made strong connections with the community and we want to thank everyone who has been involved again.” 

EARLIER: THE state government has stepped in to guarantee the Wimmera Cancer Centre is built so local patients will be able to access world-leading oncology care, close to home and when they need it.

Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today announced that Wimmera Healthcare Group would receive a further boost of $1.6 million from the state government’s Regional Health Infrastructure Fund, ensuring this critical project can go ahead.

The additional funding comes on top of the state government’s initial $1 million contribution to the project, taking the government’s total investment in the Wimmera Cancer Centre to $2.6 million.

This will see the project expanded beyond just a redevelopment of the Wimmera Healthcare Group’s oncology unit to include renal dialysis services and palliative care accommodation.

The Centre will include nine new day chemotherapy chairs, a wellness service, six renal dialysis chairs and modern accommodation facilities for palliative care services.

“We’ve stepped in to save the Wimmera Cancer Centre by providing the additional funding needed for this vital project to go ahead,” Ms Hennessy said. 

“This will secure the future of the Wimmera Cancer Centre and will mean more cancer patients can access the highest quality cancer care, right on their doorstep.”

Cancer has the highest incidence of any disease in Wimmera Southern Mallee region, meaning the demand for cancer services is growing. Wimmera Healthcare Group’s oncology unit is set to treat 2,300 patients this year.

The total cost of the project is $5.35 million, with construction now expected to start in November.

The state budget 2017-18 provided $1.67 billion to support hospitals to meet demand, respond to family violence and provide the high quality care Victorian patients deserve, now and into the future.

“Currently, local cancer patients have to travel to Ballarat for treatment, meaning long drives and time away from their families. The Wimmera Cancer Centre will change that,” Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said.