The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) welcomes the federal government’s announcement that grant applications have been opened for 10 new radiation oncology treatment centres across Australia. RANZCR is calling on governments to address current workforce issues to ensure these new centres are able to provide vital cancer care in regional and rural Australia for years to come.
In the current climate of radiation oncologist shortages in regional and rural areas, strategies to support the recruitment and retention of these specialists will need to be in place. It is essential to adequately staff the new centres so that patients experience short waiting times and receive safe and quality care.
These new radiation therapy treatment facilities will help address the current gaps in cancer services and better meet the individual needs of the communities they will service. They will ensure that Australians living in regional and rural areas have improved access to quality cancer care.
Radiation oncologist and Chair of RANZCR’s Targeting Cancer Management Committee, A/Prof Sid Baxi, said, “We know that patients in regional and rural Australia currently have worse cancer outcomes than those in metropolitan areas. They face many challenges in accessing the care they need, including travel and accommodation for outpatient treatments like radiation therapy.
“This is an opportunity for state governments across Australia to address current workforce issues and implement sustainable solutions to ensure these centres can be appropriately staffed now and into the future.
“To fully meet the needs of patients, it is important that the new facilities align with the local health system and any existing cancer services and networks and can integrate in partnership with tertiary centres. They must contribute to building an equitable health system and improve access and affordability of care in the region.
“We urge governments and other stakeholders to carefully consider all factors to ensure that the new radiation therapy centres deliver quality care and equitable outcomes for cancer patients in regional Australia.”
Earlier this year, the Radiation Oncology Alliance worked together to update the Establishing and sustaining regional and rural radiation therapy centres issues paper, first published in 2016. The paper outlines principles to guide the establishment of radiation therapy services in regional and rural areas, including workforce and resourcing, IT infrastructure, and local collaboration.
The Alliance consists of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists’ (RANZCR) Faculty of Radiation Oncology, Australasian College for Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM), Australian Society of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy (ASMIRT), and Cancer Nurses Society of
RANZCR will continue to work closely with the federal and state governments to ensure regional and rural cancer patients have access to the highest quality cancer care.