$6M Cancer Centre a world-class win

By Charmayne Allison

ECHUCA is one step closer to a flagship cancer and wellness centre that will give patients fighting cancer the world-class treatment they need closer to home.

Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp was at Echuca Regional Health on Monday to announce $6 million to build the game-changing new facility, set to overhaul the hospital’s chemotherapy and dialysis services.

‘‘Most importantly, it will service the entire Campaspe Shire — some 44,000 people living in the area will soon have world-class oncology and dialysis facilities,’’ he said.

The centre will include 10 treatment bays and offer the latest wellness programs to help improve the health and wellbeing of cancer patients – both during treatment and recovery.

People will also benefit from improved access to consultations from haematologists, medical oncologists, nephrologists and radiation oncologists, all under the one roof.

ERH chief executive Nick Bush said the service was desperately needed in the region.

‘‘Many of our patients are elderly and have said they struggle to travel an hour and a half to Bendigo and back to receive treatment,’’ he said.

‘‘Thanks to this new centre, people along the Murray River will be able to come to Echuca.’’

Former ERH board chair Chris Bilkey was part of the team that started advocating for state government funding two years ago.

‘‘Mark (Gepp) was pretty gobsmacked when we took him through ERH’s current oncology and dialysis area,’’ he said.

‘‘It was a facility very much out of date and still is out of date. There was no privacy, the facilities were old, lifts were breaking down and the staff were working in awful conditions to deliver a top-rate service.’’

Nurse unit manager of ERH’s medical day treatment unit Lyn Jeffreson hoped the new centre would make ERH’s services more visible to the community.

‘‘At the moment we’re tucked away on the second floor of an outdated building which makes access difficult for our patients, particularly our older or unwell patients having treatment,’’ she said.

‘‘This is a fantastic opportunity for us to move into an area that is purpose built.’’

ERH will call for tenders for an architect in the coming weeks, with staff consultations planned for the next six months.

‘‘We’ll be hoping to start construction mid next year and that will be a 12-month project, so we’re aiming to be finished by 2021,’’ Mr Bush said.