More to be done

01 Jul, 2009 01:09 PM
WHILE Monday's official opening of the Milton-Ulladulla Community Cancer Services Centre represented a huge triumph for our community, there's much more to be done.

The dedicated members of the Cancer Outpatients Appeal, led by president Dee Carrington and doctor Brett Thomson, have proven their critics wrong and have overcome some huge hurdles to make the dream a reality.

Chemotherapy has been carried out at the centre for just over 12 months and a range of support and community services are now available.

But the fight for cancer services in our district will continue as the committee sets its sights firmly on attracting oncologists and other specialists to the district to further reduce stress on local cancer patients and their families.

Dr Thomson said the appeal started because of the limited cancer services available in the area.

He told Monday's gathering that the cancer statistics for the region were alarming and called on both the State and Federal Government to work towards providing more services for Milton-Ulladulla.

"We need to get the specialists down here and our palliative care services need to call this centre home," he said.

Appeal president Dee Carrington echoed Dr Thomson's comments and said changes need to be made to the way in which the state's health services operate to ensure communities are involved in the decision making process.

She said the cancer centre was an example of the community leading the way.

South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service acting CEO Elizabeth Koff said the Milton-Ulladulla Community Cancer Services Centre represented a community banding together and recognising a need.

"The contributions made by this community are truly outstanding.

"An average of 16 people per week have received oncology treatment at the centre since it opened and the support groups that are housed here provide an holistic care that is essential to cancer patients," she said.

Senator for NSW Michael Forshaw said he was privileged to be invited to open the centre.

"This is such a beautiful area, but unfortunately it cannot escape the ravages of cancer.

"It catches up with all of us and affects many.

"This facility is a truly magnificent achievement for the community.

"It is no longer necessary for patients to make long trips to Sydney, Wollongong or Canberra for treatment."

Senator Forshaw commended Federal Member for Gilmore Joanna Gash on her contribution to the project and the previous government's Regional Partnership grant that fast tracked the centre's construction.

"Putting politics aside, this is about governments getting directly involved with communities and making things happen," he said.

He congratulated the committee, architects, builders and the community on achieving a "truly welcoming place".

"It provides the comfort that is so important for patients, in a heritage style building that fits the style of the town."

He went on to praise Dee Carrington for her ongoing efforts.

"I commend Dee on her drive, her enthusiasm, her tenacity. She has worked tirelessly to ensure the facility was completed under budget and ahead of schedule," he said.

Mollymook artist Andrew Antonio gave a personal account of how the centre has made dealing with his partner's recent cancer battle less stressful.

His partner Marilyn Puschak was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and is now receiving chemotherapy at Milton.

"We are both ex-pats, so we have no immediate family here.

"The staff at this centre have become like our family in recent months and we feel like we have been embraced by the community.

"The fact that Marilyn has to come here is a struggle, but we see this place and these people as an ally in our struggle.

"My hat goes off to all the people that made this happen.

"They have given so much time, commitment and energy for our community."

The celebration was opened with an Aboriginal welcoming dance performed by Noel Butler and musician Trish Roberts and included a traditional fire lighting ceremony, with assistance from audience member Rob Manning.

Shoalhaven mayor Paul Green thanked Noel for the indigenous welcome and paid tribute to the traditional custodians of our land.

He said the centre was "an exceptional facility providing cancer care in the 'Shoal-heaven'".

He said the community must now work towards getting a linear accelerator at Shoalhaven Hospital to provide radiotherapy treatment and to complement the Milton facility.