Cancer unit upgrade

The chemotherapy unit in Port Lincoln will receive an upgrade from low to medium complexity, after the state government announced it would double the number of medium grade units outside of metropolitan Adelaide.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the government would provide $6.9 million for three sites to be upgraded, including the Riverland, Victor Harbour and Port Lincoln, bringing the number of medium level units in regional areas to six. 

"Country cancer services are an integral part of our statewide cancer services and this upgrade will provide access to world-class treatment outside of metropolitan hospitals," said Mr Wade. 

He said the expansion of services will occur over the next four years, to allow staff to have the right tools to give specialised care to patients. 

"Medium complexity cancer care involves using a combination of multiple chemotherapy drugs or combining biological therapies along with chemotherapy drugs to treat most solid cancers," he said. 

"This means a higher level of cancer care can be offered locally to country cancer patients who need more intensive treatment.

"There will be more than eight additional positions created to support country chemotherapy units, including medical oncologists and cancer care coordinators."

He said they would also trial a General Practitioner oncologist role in consultation with rural GPs. 

The medium complexity upgrade may allow for OncoTICE treatments to occur in future, after it was revealed patients had to travel to Whyalla for the five minute procedure.

While OncoTICE treatment is not a chemotherapy treatment, SA Health said work is continuing to potentially enable this service at the Port Lincoln Hospital. 

Acting director of nursing at the Port Lincoln Hospital, Chris Weber said they welcomed the upgrade. 

"We welcome the expansion of our chemotherapy unit from low complexity to a medium complexity so our community members can access cancer services closer to home," she said. 

Member for Flinders Peter Treloar said he was very please the hospital will have increased treatment for those undergoing chemotherapy.

"Being able to provide Medium Complexity chemotherapy within the electorate is something I have been lobbying the current and previous Health Ministers for many years," he said.

"With the help of constituents I have demonstrated how difficult it is for patients to travel regularly to Adelaide and Whyalla for treatment they ought to be able to access closer to home.

"For those already unwell, this poses significant logistical, financial, and emotional challenges for both them and their families.

"The announced expansion entails funding for new nurses and doctors, and to provide them with the necessary training, with increased services available in Port Lincoln from 2020.

He said his recent discussions with minister Wade regarding the provision of OncoTICE treatment in Port Lincoln are also being addressed.

"While this treatment is used for certain types of bladder cancer, it is not chemotherapy...I have been assured that work is continuing to potentially enable this service at Port Lincoln Hospital."