Wollongong Hospital will get its long-awaited PET scan machine after NSW Parliament yesterday took notice of the 30,000 Illawarra residents demanding better cancer services for the region.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward told Parliament yesterday afternoon the hospital would get the badly needed scanner, and it would be available to all public patients.
"After discussion with the health minister and the health district board, we have found a way to ensure that Wollongong will get its PET scanner in the space provided at Wollongong Hospital," Mr Ward said to the cheers of the 30 Illawarra Cancer Carers in the public gallery.
"While this arrangement will be struck with a private operator, public patients will be covered and supported by the Local Health District," Mr Ward said.
"Whilst the means will be funded by the private operator, the benefits will be extended to all public inpatients."
Mr Ward said the announcement - which had the support of both Liberal and Labor politicians - meant "lives will be saved in our region".
The news brought tears to the eyes of Illawarra residents who travelled to Sydney for the tabling of a petition of 30,000 signatures demanding the machine, which detects cancers and heart and brain disease faster and more accurately than other imaging technology.
"It's a very great feeling up here tonight," said Faye Campbell who had worked tirelessly with Illawarra oncologist Professor Philip Clingan to secure the scanner.
"It's been a long, hard battle and the news has just overwhelmed us all. We are going to get our machine as soon as possible, we believe work has already started," Ms Campbell said.
"I didn't expect they would make an announcement. We thought the petition would be tabled and they would get back to us. It nearly knocked us off our feet."
Ms Campbell paid tribute to the Illawarra MPs who put politics aside to work together for the good of the community.
"It's been a long, hard struggle and I want to express my appreciation to both Labor and Liberal politicians who worked as a collective . . . all of them worked together very closely on this one."
An emotional Keith Wilson said the Illawarra Cancer Carer members gathered outside Parliament House after the announcement were "overwhelmed and overjoyed".
"It's just such great news, there are quite a few of us in tears," Mr Wilson said.
The people of Wollongong had made it possible, he said.
"That's what moved it. Most petitions come into Parliament with barely the 10,000 signatures they need to get up. We ended up with over 30,000 signatures thanks to the people of Wollongong."
Wollongong MP Noreen Hay welcomed the announcement, saying: "It's not often that both sides of the political spectrum come together in agreement on an issue.
"But the issue of cancer is one that touches everyone."
Heathcote MP Lee Evans congratulated the residents, patients and doctors who collected a record-breaking 30,000 signatures.
"Because we came as a block we had to be listened to," he said referring to the bi-partisan approach.
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson said the announcement was a "brilliant result" for the community, and Keira MP Ryan Park said yesterday was a "a great day" for the region.
"This is one issue that goes well above politics," Mr Park said.
"It touches everybody."
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