Patients lined up ready for cancer unit to open

The area director of cancer services, Associate Professor Dr Tom Shakespeare, shows Coffs Harbour Health Campus general manager
The area director of cancer services, Associate Professor Dr Tom Shakespeare, shows Coffs Harbour Health Campus general manager

CANCER patients are already waiting in line for Coffs Harbour's new radiotherapy unit to open its doors, even though these doors won't open until next year.

Dr Tom Shakespeare, the area director of cancer services for the integrated cancer care unit at Coffs harbour and Port Macquarie, said an amazing number of people knew about the progress of the unit and were very excited.

"A number of men with prostate cancer who have difficulty getting to Sydney and are already having hormone treatments are already waiting for radiotherapy treatment here," he said.

The first linear accelerator for the new unit arrived at Coffs Harbour just over two weeks ago and has been in- stalled in a special bunker with metre-thick concrete walls and a 'maze' to provide protection against the machine's high energy photon emisssions.

The state-of-the-art Elektra Synergy System linear accelerator can rotate; the patient's bed can rotate and a series of metal leaves can be adjusted at the touch of a computer to ensure radiotherapy treatments are administered with pin-point accuracy.

The unit's second linear accelerator will be installed at Port Macquarie Base Hospital in a few weeks time, with a single commissioning team working at both sites.

Commissioning of the Coffs Harbour machine, which takes several months, is about to begin.

Other machines to be in- stalled at the two sites.

Will be a $632,726 IMPAC Mosaic information system, two CMO Xio RT planning systems, costing $755,596 and two Siemens Sensation Open CT Systems costing $1,912,892.

Building work is expected to be complete by the end of February and the first patients should be treated in late March or early April.

Senior project staff and the area manager for cancer, palliative care and breastscreen services for Coffs Harbour, Maureen McGovern, joined Dr Shakespeare and the manager of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, Margaret Bennett, for a detailed tour of the new unit yesterday, to allow them to correct any problems they perceived during the construction stage.

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