FUNDING PROMISE: Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers, pictured at Gladstone Hospital in March last year, will today promise to build a radiation facility in Gladstone if elected.
FUNDING PROMISE: Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers, pictured at Gladstone Hospital in March last year, will today promise to build a radiation facility in Gladstone if elected. Matt Taylor GLA210318BILL

Labor to promise radiation therapy facility for Gladstone

GLADSTONE cancer patients may not be forced to travel to receive radiation therapy in the coming years.

Today Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is expected to announce Labor would allocate $60 million to build 13 new radiation therapy facilities in regional cities, including Gladstone, if elected.

The funding would be part of its $2.3 billion cancer care package, announced last week in Mr Shorten's Budget reply.

It's an increase to the Federal Government's $45.5 million promised for new radiation facilities included in this year's Budget.

However the Budget did not identify which regions would receive the new facilities. The Observer understands Labor is confident the $60 million would cover the build of all 13 facilities.

Labor is yet to reveal how much Gladstone's facility would cost, or when it would be built, as it would depend on the tender process, its location and clinical model.

If Gladstone cancer patients want to receive radiation therapy they need to travel to Rockhampton or Bundaberg.

Gladstone was identified as one of 13 regions by the Radiation Therapy Action Group when it launched a campaign for more facilities in regional areas in March.

RTAG said radiation was underutilised in Australia, with just one in three patients offered the treatment compared to one in two in North America and Europe.

The group believed part of the reason for the gap was the lack of approved facilities outside capital cities.

Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers said the commitment would ensure Gladstone residents would not miss out on a vital health service.

"I've met with people who have been forced to sell their car or borrow money after their loved ones were diagnosed with cancer," he said.

"This shouldn't be happening in Australia.

"Locals should have access to high quality, accessible cancer treatment right here in Gladstone, without having to borrow or beg to get it."

Mr Shorten said the funding would help reduce the gap between health outcomes for regional and city residents.

"Part of the reason for this gap is a lack of approved facilities, particularly outside our big cities. Labor will fully fund the Radiation Therapy Advisory Group's plan to close this gap in regional areas.

"Cancer is responsible for the biggest burden of disease in Australia, and cancer patients in regional and rural areas are more likely to die within five years of diagnosis."

Mr Shorten said Labor's investment in cancer care was possible due to its tax reform plans, including tightening loopholes to prevent multinational companies from dodging tax requirements.

While the election date has not been announced it's likely to be May 18 or 25.