Page MP Janelle Saffin is lobbying hard in Canberra on two submissions which would vastly improve care for cancer patients across the North Coast and provide low-cost accommodation for them and their carers while in Lismore.

Ms Saffin this week met with Federal Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon to discuss a $57.8 million Regional Cancer Centres Initiative-North Coast Cancer Institute and a $2.6 million ‘Our House’-Lismore Cancer Patient and Carer Accommodation project.

Ms Saffin said she hoped both projects could be approved under the Federal Government’s $560 million Health & Hospitals Fund, which will build 10 best-practice regional cancer centres in Canberra and non-metropolitan centres.

“I encouraged the local medical fraternity and community members to lodge strong applications, which were independently assessed by the Health & Hospitals Fund Advisory Board during the past few months,” she said.

“Clearly, we must compete against other regional bids from around Australia, but with the North Coast having the highest incidence of melanoma in New South Wales and above-average incidences of all forms of cancer, we can certainly justify a need for improved services.”

NSW Health and the North Coast Area Health Service jointly lodged the regional initiative, which includes $9.1 million for a second linear accelerator (radiotherapy) and a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner at Lismore Base Hospital’s $25 million Integrated Cancer Care Centre, due to open by May this year.

Other key capital investments in this submission, developed by leading oncologists, are $26.7 million for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner, approved as Medical Benefits Schedule eligible, at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, and $22 million for a second linear accelerator and bunker at Port Macquarie Base Hospital.

Our Kids, spearheaded by fundraiser Rebekka Battista, and the Northern Rivers Community Cancer Foundation Limited, chaired by Lismore paediatrician Dr Chris Ingall, are seeking $2.6 million in Commonwealth funding towards a $4.1 million, 20-unit accommodation lodge for cancer patients and their carers.

‘Our House’ – Lismore Cancer Patient and Carer Accommodation would be built next door to the Lismore ICCC where Jildyn Flats currently stand.

NSW Health has approved the sale of Jildyn Flats to the Foundation and confirmed it will match the Cancer Council of Australia’s $500,000 contribution to the project. The Foundation has committed to raise a further $500,000 and already has sizeable pledges from local organisations.

PICTURE: Nicola Roxon and Janelle Saffin in Canberra this week.