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Tony Ryall Speech: At Christchurch Hospital Equipment Launch

Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health

7 November 2011


Launch of new cancer radiation linear accelerator machine at Christchurch Hospital

I am very pleased to open the third linear accelerator at Canterbury DHB in just 18 months.

I know this machine will add considerably to Canterbury's ability to provide a high quality, timely service to people with cancer for the Canterbury region and beyond.

Access to advanced cancer treatments continues to improve for Canterbury patients with the addition of a new Linear Accelerator at Christchurch Hospital that is set to lift treatment capacity by 33 percent.

The Canterbury Health System has installed a $3 million Elekta Synergy Linear Accelerator (Linac).

A Linac is most commonly used for radiation treatment for patients with cancer. The Linac is used to treat all parts/organs of the body.

It delivers high-energy xrays to the region of the patient's tumour. These x-ray treatments can be designed in such a way that they destroy the cancer cells while sparing the surrounding normal tissue.

There is now one 8 year old Linac, and these three new Linacs which have become operational in the past 18 months, at Christchurch Hospital.

Each of these new machines has the capacity to treat up to 800 patients a year. The machine’s technical capability also means it provides increased accuracy, allowing better tumour control and reduced side effects.

The machine is fully compatible with the other Linacs, meaning patients can be transferred between them, reducing overall waiting times.

The new machine was required to help meet increasing demand for radiotherapy and to help achieve the Government’s four week waiting time target for Cancer treatment.

While the machine has been commissioned, staff have been working exceptionally hard under extra-ordinary circumstances to ensure the target has been met.

Since its arrival the end of April, medical physicists and radiation therapists have also been provided advanced training and the department has recruited four new radiation therapists who have started work in the last two months with four more scheduled to start in January.

Canterbury DHB achieved the four week Shorter waits for cancer treatment health target for quarter four, with only one patient waiting three days longer than the target as a direct result of the earthquakes.

The DHB’s staff members are commended for this achievement in the face of the major disruptions following the earthquakes and then adverse weather events.

And some broader cancer achievements below.

In our first term, this Government has:

* introduced funding for a 12 month course of the breast cancer drug Herceptin

* introduced a bowel cancer screening programme

* provided $4 million to help regional cancer centres provide faster treatment for patients

* approved ten new linear accelerators (cancer radiation treatment machines)

* reduced maximum waiting times for radiation cancer treatment to the world gold standard of four weeks

* increased publicly funded chemotherapy clinics 25%

* funded new medicines for advanced lung and kidney cancers, and

* introduced new lung cancer treatment standards including a maximum waiting time from GP referral to first treatment.

© Scoop Media

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