6 June 2023

Scenic views, local photos: 'Non-hospital-like' new Griffith radiation centre set to open

| Oliver Jacques
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two women at admin desk

Cancer Care Griffith’s Angie Poli and Bernadine Stacy offer a warm welcome. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A new Griffith cancer treatment facility that will provide locally based radiation therapy for the first time is set to open within days.

Cancer Care Associates, a private provider with an established facility in Wagga (Riverina Cancer Care), is putting the finishing touches on its newly constructed Cancer Care Griffith, at 115 Binya Street, which will provide free treatment for to up 200 patients in its first year.

“That’s 200 families that otherwise would have had to travel to Wagga, Albury or Sydney for treatment,” RCC chief operating officer Damien Williams said.

“We expect the licensing requirements from NSW Health to be finalised Wednesday, so we hope to be open in Griffith by Thursday (8 June).”

READ ALSO Where’s our bulk billing? Wagga’s cancer treatment brought into question

The centre will provide radiation therapy – a treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells – for those aged 16 and over. The full course of six weeks of treatment will be bulk-billed through Medicare, which means no out-of-pocket expenses for patients, even if they don’t have private health insurance.

Riverina Cancer Care will continue to provide bulk-billed general oncology – diagnosis and drug treatments such as chemotherapy – at Griffith Base Hospital, but also offer oncology at its new facility for those with private health insurance coverage or willing to make a gap payment.

Treatment chair opposite window

A treatment chair offering patients a view of a tree-lined street. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Mr Williams said a great deal of work had gone into making the new centre’s building as pleasant an environment as possible, with the two floors spruced up with local photography and the six treatment chairs facing windows with views of a tree-lined street.

“We want to create a non-hospital-like environment as much as possible,” he said.

”If we can make the process as nice as we can, ultimately a happy patient is going to get a better outcome.

“The building owner has brought a lot of old Griffith photos. We try and bring the irrigation theme throughout the facility.

“The whole design of our medical oncology facility is trying to maximise the patient having some sort of view. Not sitting in a chair looking at another patient or staring at a wall. A patient can be sitting here for up to eight hours, so they want a nice view. We thought the best view would be showing them some trees.”

READ ALSO Griffith mum revamps eatery Tucker Den in first business venture

The centre features a $4 million linear accelerator, a machine that aims radiation at cancer tumors with pinpoint accuracy, sparing nearby healthy tissue.

“It came in pieces, and it took the manufacturer six weeks to put it all together,” Mr Williams said.

“We got an image from a local photographer and sent it off to be converted to a sky ceiling, so the patient receiving treatment has something nice to look at.”

Elekta Linear Accelerator

The $4 million Elekta linear accelerator. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Griffith cancer advocate Tammy Hirst, who has had to frequently travel to Wagga to access treatment for her daughter, was impressed at her first viewing of the centre near her home.

“As I walked through this amazing centre, I felt rather speechless and awestruck,” she said.

”This new centre is going to change so many local lives and help keep so many families together through some rough times. Thank you to all those involved in making this dream for Griffith a reality.”

Sky ceiling view

Local photography is the view for patients on the linear accelerator. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The Griffith Cancer Centre was first announced by Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley, who helped secure a $5 million government grant to build it. It followed years of lobbying by Griffith cancer advocates such as Grant and Denise Hearn, Tammy Hirst, Kylie O’Connor, Olga Forner, Margaret Moore, Moreen Corner and Councillor Simon Croce. State MP Helen Dalton pushed for the service to be bulk-billed.

The original Wagga Riverina Cancer Care Centre still doesn’t provide bulk-billing, though, meaning patients still have out-of-pocket expenses. Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr is trying to convince the NSW Government to reach the same agreement it did with Griffith, to enable free treatment in his town.

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